By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer Published Jun 22, 2020 at 1:01 PM

According to the National Restaurant Association, the total economic impact of the restaurant industry to the US economy was $2.5 Trillion Dollars in 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many economists estimate that the restaurant industry will lose $240 Billion dollars in 2020 alone. These losses put more than 5.5 million industry jobs in grave jeopardy.

Despite a variety of operational pivots and efforts to stay afloat by offering carry-out and curbside pick-up, the nation’s restaurants – including those in Milwaukee – have sustained unprecedented financial losses and hardship. In fact, economists predict that it will take years for the restaurant industry to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, the Wisconsin-based non-profit SERVE 60 – a Black-owned organization which promotes and facilitates volunteerism and support for worthy organizations – has launched a national campaign which it hopes will serve as a catalyst and call-to-action for Americans to help the restaurant industry – especially Black-owned businesses – begin the long road to recovery.

America’s Great Restaurant Rebound

"Our organization has always viewed helping others as our mission and, now, more than ever, our mission is being put to the test during this unprecedented time of dealing with civil unrest in the midst of a global pandemic," notes L. Maxwell McKissick, founder and board chairman of SERVE 60.

"One of our nonprofit’s most successful past fundraising events brought together some amazing independent owned restaurants and foodies of all walks of life and color, so we know the unifying power of enjoying a great meal. And, right now, the restaurant industry is in dire need of financial help caused by the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. We could not just sit idly by and watch the restaurant industry, its employees and their families suffer."

As a result, SERVE 60 has launched a new national marketing campaign called, SERVE. TASTE. GIVE. "America’s Great Restaurant Rebound" to help support restaurants across America. The campaign is designed to focus primarily on helping independent restaurants, particularly Black-owned restaurants and any restaurant owned by people of color.

Take the pledge

From now through October 31, diners are asked to make the "Spend $60" pledge, vowing to spend at least $60 at independent eateries, particularly Black-owned restaurants (see our list of Milwaukee Black-owned restaurants for ideas). Support can take the form of dine-in, carry-out or delivery. Depending on the diners’ means, the $60 pledge could even take the form of a weekly or monthly commitment.

Make your pledge public

As diners fulfill their pledges, they are also encouraged to take photos of their restaurant purchases or meal receipts and post them on social media, tagging SERVE 60 and using the hashtags #servetastegive #spend60 #serve60 and #AmericasGreatRestaurantRebound to bring additional visibility to the campaign and show restaurants that you support them.

Ultimately, the campaign hopes to glean the support of at least 10 million Americans, resulting in an additional $600 Million dollars entering the U.S. economy and supporting the restaurant industry and its employees.

Following the campaign, diners will be asked to continue their support by taking the "SERVE 60 Pledge," using their extra hour gained from Daylight Saving Time weekend to once again dine-in for an hour, grab takeout or order delivery anytime between Nov. 1-8, thereby creating a national restaurant week that once-again supports independent restaurants across America.

Donate to restaurant relief

Diners who don’t feel comfortable dining out, or who would simply like to support the cause, can make a donation to the SERVE 60 Restaurant Relief Fund. The fund will accept donations over the five month campaign and all proceeds raised will benefit the SERVE 60 mission and efforts to help promote and execute the national campaign. It will also help the US economy rebound by providing financial relief to the many restaurant owners, their families and employees that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the country’s civil unrest.

Financial contributions to the fund will provide assistance with rent, food costs, employee wages and other bills that have been exacerbated by the recent forced business closures due to the ongoing pandemic as well as loss of business caused by any civil unrest property damages.

More about SERVE 60

SERVE 60 has executed many successful national campaigns over the last 10 years. In years past, SERVE the organization has collaborated with some phenomenal partners to develop and activate social impact campaigns and volunteer events across the United States and internationally.

Partners have included Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid; Rosario Dawson’s Voto Latino; Black Enterprise Magazine to increase youth education, literacy and mentorship among media professionals of color. SERVE 60 has also supported American volunteers on missions to build homes in Nicaragua.

For more details and information on how to support the national campaign for the restaurant industry or donate to the SERVE 60 Restaurant Relief Fund, visit www.servetastegive.com.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer

Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.

Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon. 

Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.