With so many incredible dining venues across the Golden State, it doesn’t take much effort to convince Californians to patronize their favorite restaurants. This November, they’ll have an extra incentive with the launch of the The Grateful Table Dine Out, organized by the nonprofit California Restaurant Association Foundation (CRAF). The monthlong event will benefit the state’s restaurant community and raise funds for CRAF’s Restaurants Care, a program that provides relief grants for struggling restaurant workers.
Best of all, participation couldn’t be easier: All guests have to do to help is dine out during the month of November.
“You look at any Main Street and restaurants are the cornerstone of what makes a community unique and interesting,” says CRAF executive director Alycia Harshfield. “They’re the heart of our social gatherings and celebrations, so we need them to stay in business. Otherwise, our neighborhoods will be forever changed. This is a simple way for us to help them and the restaurant workers who are at the heart of this business.”
In addition to supporting restaurants by driving customer traffic to their doors, The Grateful Table Dine Out will raise money by asking guests to donate to Restaurants Care through the event’s featured dining venues.
Since the pandemic hit in March, Restaurants Care has awarded grants to more than 1,000 California restaurant workers. While it has recently focused on alleviating COVID-related hardships, the fund was created three years ago as a safety net for everyday struggles.
“We just happened to be up and running to help California restaurant workers through six wildfires and a pandemic this year,” says Harshfield. “Now we have to rebuild the fund so that the core of what we’re intending to do stays intact and is sustained. That’s why we’re asking guests to use their superpower—dining out—for all of November. Dine al fresco, dine delivery, dine to go. Just dine out.”
View from the Trenches
John Tallichet, president and CEO of Costa Mesa–based Specialty Restaurants Corp.—which includes 20 dining venues across the country—has had a front-row view of the challenges the pandemic has inflicted on California’s restaurant community. Of the nine California venues in the Specialty Restaurants portfolio, five are currently closed.
“In the early part of the pandemic the biggest challenge was being told that we could no longer operate, and that we quickly needed to move to a to-go model,” Tallichet says. “Our restaurants are very experiential—destination restaurants—so it’s tough to get that same experience in a to-go environment. We didn’t need anywhere near the number of team members we had before, so that was really tough. Basically 90 percent of our teams were furloughed, and for many of them, they had no idea what the future was going to be.”
As a CRAF board member, Tallichet recognizes the need to help struggling restaurant employees, not only during the pandemic, but all the time. “A lot of the people who work with us live paycheck to paycheck,” says Tallichet. “They don't have a lot of options, so as life gets in the way it's great to have the foundation there to lend a helping hand. It's amazing how just a little bit of money goes a long way. Sometimes just $1,000 is life changing.”
By supporting the community during The Grateful Table Dine Out, he adds, consumers can help restaurants survive while providing a financial boost to employees. “I think we forget how important it is for guests to dine in their community restaurants,” he says, “but on top of that, we have team members who are under a lot of pressure coming to work every day not knowing what's going to happen.”
Five of Tallichet’s restaurants—Orange Hill in Orange, Castaway in Burbank, Odyssey in Granada Hills, Whiskey Red’s in Marina del Rey, and The Reef in Long Beach—will participate in the November dine-out event, displaying QR codes on tables that link to The Grateful Table donations page.
“We’ve got good support within the industry and a lot of restaurants are participating,” says Tallichet. “I’m really excited about it.”
Aside from the good feeling that comes from helping deserving folks in need, there’s another potential benefit for participating diners: the chance to win a $500 restaurant gift card. To enter, post a photo of your Grateful Table meal on Instagram between November 1-25, tag the venue, and use the hashtag #gratefultablesweepstakes. If you’re one of the four winning entrants, you’ll score $500 to spend at the restaurant featured in your post.
To find featured restaurants or to donate to Restaurants Care, visit The Grateful Table Dine Out website. For more ways to be a respectful traveler in California, visit our Responsible Travel Hub, which includes helpful Travel Updates and information (including What You Need to Know About Visiting California Restaurants) to help you plan ahead.