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Big Table Ensures Restaurant and Hospitality Workers in Need Receive Essential Services and Crisis Care


Even before the devastating impact COVID-19 had on the entire restaurant and hospitality industry, workers already frequently faced challenges and crises requiring assistance and support. Too often, these hospitality workers are teetering on the edge of both financial and emotional disruption.

Big Table is a 501(c3) organization with locations in San Diego, Seattle, Spokane and Nashville and exists to see the lives of those working in the restaurant and hospitality industry transformed by building community and caring for those who are in crisis, transition, or falling through the cracks.

The restaurant industry is one of the continually fastest-growing and largest employer groups in the country, and as such often employs some of of the most vulnerable members of society including single parents, at-risk teens, immigrants and others attempting to turn their lives around.

According to Big Table, while the large amount of jobs available means anyone willing to work can get a job, it also means many at-risk individuals are working in stressful situations often without a safety net, leading to high levels of alcohol and drug addiction, massive amounts of divorce and broken relationships, redline stress levels, job instability and rapid turnover.

Big Table comes in to try and help create a more viable safety net. Big Table’s San Diego location launched in early 2019 and quickly went to work connecting those in need. San Diego is home to over 7,000 restaurants and 500 hotels, employing roughly 186,000 in the industry, with many employees earning far below a living wage. Big Table comes alongside these hardworking individuals when they experience a temporary setback to offer support, encouragement and hope.

So how does the safety net work? Big Table works on a referral model, not a “hotline” model, meaning that the organization has a network of managers, owners and employees across the industry and when they see someone in crisis, they submit a personal referral; someone does not need to reach out to get help. Each case is reviewed and managed individually, with the personal nature of the referral model strengthening a sense of community and accountability, minimizing requests from those trying to take advantage of the system.

For each case, the first response is usually urgent in nature — meeting an immediate crisis need as quickly as possible with the goal of keeping a family or individual from falling off the ledge. The organization works with its network of supporters to provide the employee with the best connections for their needs. The list of referral opportunities is long and diverse and can include everything from doctors and dentists, to therapists, auto mechanics and lawyers.

You can support Big Table and its San Diego efforts by attending Big Table Eats Around The World on November 15. This chef-driven evening will feature exquisite cuisine from France and Japan, live music, a raffle, wine wall and live auction.

Beyond Eats Around The World, Big Table has also created an innovative way to continually support those in the restaurant and hospitality industry called “Unexpected 20s.” The organization will provide you or your group with a quantity of labeled small envelopes designed to contain a folded $20 bill. While you or your team is out and about, simply drop the envelopes for staff members both front and back of the house as a way to say thank you. Tell them it is simply a gift…no strings attached; it is not a payment or tip, simply a gift.

This simple gesture of saying thank you and recognizing all those in the restaurant and hospitality industry is a wonderful way to give back and also create a team-building community activation for your employees.

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