Two major restaurateurs and at least one small operator have agreed to pay 100% of the April health-insurance premiums for employees covered under company-funded plans.
Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr, who has 6,000 employees in 41 all-but-idled restaurants in Philadelphia, New York, Atlantic City, Washington, and South Florida, and Michael Schulson, who has 1,100 workers at 10 Philadelphia restaurants and a catering division, typically pay a portion of the premiums.
Starr declined to specify how many participate in the plans or to provide a dollar amount of the company’s contribution. Starr’s restaurants include the Continental, Parc, Buddakan, Morimoto, The Love, Barclay Prime, and Dandelion.
Schulson, who held the door open to a contribution beyond April, said about a third of his employees at restaurants such as Sampan, Osteria, Double Knot, and Harp & Crown participate. In addition, Schulson and his managers donated leftover food to employees and, with chef Jeff Michaud, intend to cook meals for out-of-work employees out of Giuseppe & Sons’ kitchen.
Both insurance payments are valued well into the six figures.
Jon Nodler and Samantha Kincaid, who own Cadence, a BYOB in south Kensington, are also digging deep for their six full-time employees, including cooks and the lead server.
Restaurant owners have been caught just as unawares as their employees by the coronavirus shutdowns and are in the same no-income situation for the foreseeable future. While the industry awaits word of relief, Starr and other owners are going to bat for their employees.
Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook, whose holdings include Zahav, Abe Fisher, and Federal Donuts, said they had sold $25,000 worth of gift cards, the proceeds of which would be shared with the company’s approximately 400 hourly employees. Further, the owners said that if $40,000 is raised by sundown Friday, they would match it.
Fearless Restaurants (Moshulu, White Dog Cafe, Louie Louie) is taking donations and converting them to supermarket gift cards for their 600 employees. Co-owner Sydney Grims said $3,500 was raised in three hours Wednesday.
Yianni Arhontoulis is selling gift cards at Mica, his Chestnut Hill BYOB. Walnut Street Cafe and The Post in University City have started a GoFundMe drive for employees.
In New York, Danny Meyer said he would donate his salary from his Union Square Hospitality Group, and his executives would take pay cuts, to help a fund for his workers. Shake Shack employees are not part of this group.