COVID-19 / Crowdfunding / Funding / Health

These technologists want to keep Philly’s food scene alive and feed healthcare workers

Leaders from Amino, RevZilla, ForMotiv and Evolve IP are spearheading efforts to support two of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

A delivery from South Philly Barbacoa to Penn Medicine workers. (Photo courtesy of Fuel the Fight) is one of 20+ news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice.

As Pennsylvania’s stay at home order will continue until at least April 30, Philadelphia restaurants are feeling the hit.

While folks can still order takeout or delivery from some of their favorite spots, many restaurants have shut down for the time being and have had to lay off staff. The state’s seen a record-breaking amount of people file for unemployment in the last few weeks, and many of the first waves of layoffs were in the hospitality and restaurant industry.

“Most restaurants have about three weeks of cash on-hand,” said Anthony Bucci, former CEO and cofounder of RevZilla.

The entrepreneur is working on one of a multitude of efforts across the region by to keep Philly’s food scene afloat. He and David Bookspan (founder of Amino and Monetate) started #SavePhillyEats, a website offering specialized services, experiences and offerings from local restaurants, a little more than a week ago.

The pair had friends in the restaurant industry and wanted to brainstorm a way to keep cash flowing into the hands of restaurant owners during the pandemic. The site hosts a collection of discounted gift cards, along with experiences and services across a wide price range (like a bagel making class at High Street on Market for eight people for $250 or a $20,000 private dinner for twelve in your home with Zahav founder Mike Solomonov).

The site mainly functions as a collection of restaurants offering services, as all purchases are made through the restaurants’ own sites to keep 100% of the proceeds, Bucci said. The thought is, when the stay-at-home order is lifted, Philadelphians will have had a chance to keep their favorite restaurants afloat.

“This isn’t really something that is our effort per se,” Bookspan said. “We’re trying to make it easy for people who are hardcore Philadelphia eaters to be able to support their favorite restaurants at this point.”

Another group of Philadelphia technologists have launched efforts to support the restaurant industry with the Fuel the Fight campaign. A handful of folks from behavioral intelligence platform startup ForMotiv along with some friends were brainstorming how they could help during the pandemic.

“We started thinking, ‘What if we could support two of the hardest hit industries right now?'” said Mike Mayock, the company’s head of sales.

Mayock and six others (Bill Conners, Cole Berman, Woody Klemmer, Alex Penza, Mike Davis and Lauren Conners) launched the Fuel the Fight GoFundMe page on March 20 with the goal of raising money that would be spent at local restaurants on food that could be delivered to area healthcare workers. They had a lofty goal in mind: $50,000.

In less than three weeks, the goFundMe has reached $80,000, and another fund with nonprofit Front Line Foods, set up for large or corporate donors, has raised an additional $100,000.

The group is posting updates on the GoFundMe page and on its social media, and so far has delivered food to workers at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital systems, Main Line Health System, Temple University Hospital, Jefferson University Hospital, ChristianaCare health systems, Einstein Health and CHOP. 

Mayock said the organizers reach out to different units within healthcare centers and get a head count of who will be working on upcoming shifts. They’ll then connect with their network of restaurants to place an order for the handful or hundreds of workers scheduled.

“We’ll call and explain to a restaurant what we’re doing and they immediately want to go all out on what they’re making,” Mayock said. “We’re often spending hundreds or thousands on these orders and we’re hearing from restaurant owners things like ‘I’ll get to send paychecks this week.'”

The goal is to support as many mom-and-pop restaurants as possible, but they’re also working with some corporate partners like the Garces Group to keep healthcare workers fed.

Cloud tech company Evolve IP has also come on board as a corporate sponsor, and is matching donations to Front Line Foods and the Fuel the Fight campaign.

As of Tuesday, the org had spent about $16,000 at local restaurants and will likely spend about $25,000 by the end of the week. And this weekend, Fuel the Fight and #SavePhillyEats are partnering to provide at least 2,500 holiday meals to workers at 10 local hospitals.

“We are trying to figure out the hospitals that are hit hardest, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter what department you’re working in, everyone is at a high risk, and there’s no shortage of what we can do to support them,” Mayock said.

Series: Coronavirus

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