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These Australian Restaurants Are Giving Back to the Community During COVID-19

Despite being hit hard themselves, these hospo venues are doling out free meals to the country's most vulnerable. And you can help, too.
By Libby Curran
April 23, 2020
By Libby Curran
April 23, 2020

The changes of the past couple of weeks have hit Australia's hospitality industry hard. First, there were the tighter restrictions on venue numbers and spacing; then the government's closure of all non-essential businesses means hospitality venues were forced to shut their doors and rely solely on whatever takeaway service they had operating — or adapt and launch new ones.

As a result, a huge number of hospitality workers have been left without jobs. According to website I Lost My Hospo Shift, as of Thursday, April 23, 2594 Aussie hospo workers had lost their jobs and 13,237 shifts had been cut, equating to around $2.1 million in lost wages this week alone.

Thankfully, some industry legends are coming to the rescue, lending a helping hand in the form of a few much-needed free feeds. And they're not just helping out unemployed hospo workers either, they're providing free meals to frontline health workers, international students and those just generally doing it tough right now.

In Sydney, James Thorpe — co-owner of Petersham's Oxford Tavern and The Taphouse in Darlinghurst — announced both his venues will continue serving up free takeaway meals for any struggling hospo workers. "If you are a casual hospo worker who is currently underemployed, I will pay for your meal," he said in a post on The Taphouse Instagram page last week. "Simply make yourself known at the bar with your RSA in tow (or just let us know where you work if a cafe worker) and our team will hook you up with a menu."

Meanwhile, Newtown restaurant Hearth & Soul made a comeback especially to throw some support behind struggling Sydneysiders. Owner Rachel Jelley closed the venue in November, but has thrown open the doors for a series of free Friday meal services, catering to both staff and employers in any industry who've lost jobs or income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside a crew of volunteers, she's serving up a rotating menu of produce-focused dishes from 12–2pm each week, inviting diners to register via the website.

"These are the people who have been working tirelessly to provide you with the dining-out experiences you love," Jelley explained. "They've also been cutting your hair, doing your physio, making your coffee and baking your croissants, and now their livelihoods have simply evaporated overnight, in silence. So, I want to feed them."

Over in Enmore, Colombo Social is a Sri Lankan restaurant that provides employment opportunities and support to asylum seekers and refugees. But in response to these turbulent times, it's now expanded its focus, teaming up with Mission Australia and a bunch of other local charities to feed as many vulnerable community members as possible. The kitchen's being put to good use, whipping up over 4600 hot, nutritious meals for free to those who are hungry or struggling to feed their families.

Italian chain Fratelli Fresh is also donating 650 meals every week to healthcare workers via its Feed the Front Line program, which is running until the end of June. You can donate a meal for $10 over here, too. Then, there's the group of Manly venues that have banded together in an effort to feed vulnerable hospitality workers. Via a new Go Fund Me campaign, spots like The Cumberland, The Hold, Hugos Manly and 4 Pines are raising money to fund free meals for those in the industry who've lost income and work. Impacted workers are invited to get themselves verified, then to register for any of the nightly-changing, home-delivered dishes. The meals are created using leftover food stocks donated by local restaurants.

And Chippendale local Sneaky Possum has transformed into soup kitchens, dishing up free feeds to hard-hit hospitality staff with complimentary hospo meals from 8pm nightly.

Down in Melbourne, Attica has set up its own soup kitchen. It's selling $25 Thai-inspired chicken broths, with $5 from each one sold going towards preparing food for unemployed hospitality workers on temporary visas. The crew from Brighton barbecue restaurant Coal Blooded Griller are drumming up donations to enable them to whip up free meals for those in need. Having already raised over $3500, they're able to serve hundreds of ready-to-heat, two-person food packs.

Meanwhile, Essendon burger joint Dribbles is handing out four free meals each week to people who've lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. It's currently taking nominations for the freebies via its Facebook and Instagram.

Newly-hatched non-profit event organisation The Issue X has made a mission to shed honest light on the issues and obstacles faced by the hospitality industry. And in these troubled times, it's turned its attentions to our city's hard-hit hospo staff, especially those on temporary visas who can't bank on any government support. The Issue X team knocked up a heap of nightly meals for those in need.

And Brunswick's Viet-inspired restaurant Shop Bao Ngoc is giving back to its hard-hit hospo community by offering up a nightly changing meat-free dish, available for contactless delivery within three kilometres of the venue. The crew's encouraging a $10 donation for the meals — think, tofu pad thai and vegetable shepherd's pie — but say no one will be turned away for lack of funds. You can even pay it forward by donating money towards someone's future feed.

In the Brisbane suburb of Annerley, South Indian restaurant Sankalp is lending a hand by cooking up a swag of free vegetarian meals each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The dishes are on offer to international students and any locals in need, to collect from the restaurant between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

Having pivoted its business in response to new public health regulations, Gold Coast eatery The Henchman is now operating as both a takeaway restaurant and food store. For as long as is possible, the owners are inviting anyone feeling the pinch to pop by and fill a bag with pantry supplies, on the house.

And on the Sunshine Coast, a group of Noosa Junction venues have joined forces on a mission to support both their local hospo community and international students staying in the region. Together, eateries including Pasta Pronto, Bombetta and Moto are serving a stack of free breakfasts, lunches and dinners, across a range of daily offers.

If and when you do decide to head out to get food, remember to follow the Australian Government Department of Health's social distancing guidelines.


Know of any other restaurants, cafes or bars doing their bit to help the community? Let us know at [email protected].

Published on April 23, 2020 by Libby Curran


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