Food Network star and restaurateur Guy Fieri has more on his mind these days than navigating his own restaurant business out of the Covid pandemic.
He's trying to help revitalize the industry itself.
Next month, he'll give out $300,000 in grants to aspiring restaurant entrepreneurs and existing owners.
"I've been very blessed," said Fieri, who recently signed a three-year deal with the Food Network that Forbes said is worth $80 million.
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"That's why I try to turn my time and attention to helping others and raising that money and raising some awareness," he added.
About 90,000 eating and drinking establishments are still closed, either completely or long term, according to the National Restaurant Association's Covid-19 Operator Survey for April.
Those that are open are dealing with higher costs and lower profits.
The grants, to be made in partnership with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation and the California Restaurant Association, will take place during Fieri's event, Guy's Restaurant Reboot, on June 12 at 7 p.m. ET. It will be livestreamed on his Facebook page and GuysRestaurantReboot.com, as well as simulcast across other social media platforms.
The recipients, who will get $25,000 each, will be chosen by the two food groups, Fieri said. The grants are largely funded by the event's sponsors, including LendingTree. In fact, there will be no fundraising during the event. Instead, celebrities and culinary icons will join in with food creations and conversation.
"It's not a telethon," Fieri said. "It's a celebration, an inspiration.
"We want to remind everybody: Go eat out more often," he added. "Go get more delivery. Buy more gift certificates."
This isn't Fieri's first foray into philanthropy. He's been honored by Make-A-Wish for his work with the charity and he fed firefighters battling California wildfires last year, among other activities.
Also last year, he raised $21.5 million to help restaurant workers through the National Restaurant Association's Employee Relief Fund. The result: $500 grants to more than 43,000 workers.
Now, as restaurants reopen and try to move forward, workers are hard to find. In fact, 84% of operators say their staffing level is lower than it was in the absence of Covid-19, the National Restaurant Association's April survey found.
Owners have blamed unemployment benefits, lack of child care for working parents and people leaving the business during the pandemic.
"I hope folks are recognizing that the industry needs you," Fieri said. "The industry has been great to you."
Even Fieri is feeling the pain. He recently tried to get a friend into Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and Bar for lunch on a weekday — only to find out the location wasn't open for those hours yet.
"It's a variety of topics, staffing being one of them," he said.
"But we're making it, you know, we're coming back."
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