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A Pizza Hut crew delivers hot pizzas via kayak in Houston.

Restaurants extend helping hand in Harvey’s wake

Major chains offer to aid recovery in hurricane-devastated Gulf region

From delivering free pizzas in kayaks to flood-stranded Houston-area residents, to pledging millions of dollars in Hurricane Harvey recovery aid, major restaurant brands have pitched in to assist recovery efforts, along with a legion of local operators and franchisees.

“The path to recovering and rebuilding is long,” said Tom Dobson, chairman of San Antonio, Texas-based Whataburger Inc., in a statement. “But we’re here for you, and we’ll get through this together.”


Floodwaters did not spare the Whataburger restaurant in Humble, Texas, northeast of Houston.

Whataburger was founded in 1950, in Corpus Christi, Texas, one of the communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey and its lingering flooding.

On Wednesday, 800-unit Whataburger pledged $1 million to the Whataburger Family Foundation to help affected employees with necessities like clothing, food, medical bills and monetary assistance, and donated $150,00 to the American Red Cross and $500,000 to local food banks.

Other major restaurant chains are also offering assistance.

McDonald’s donates $1 million

McDonald’s Corp. said Wednesday it would donate $1 million to the American Red Cross in support of hurricane relief and recovery efforts.

The company also said it would match employee donations up to $250,000.

“In the aftermath of this tragic storm, we are seeing the inherent kindness and character of Americans as we pull together to help all those affected by the devastation,” said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s U.S. president, in a statement. “We stand ready to help those in need as they recover and rebuild.”

McDonald’s had scheduled a press event announcing its new lineup of McCafé  drinks, but cancelled the event and delayed the announcement in light of the hurricane recovery efforts.

McDonald’s said 130 of its locations in the affected area remained closed as of Wednesday. “Locations continue to open as conditions allow,” the company said.

“Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our employees and customers, and local teams are working to re-open restaurants as soon as possible to serve their communities,” Kempczinski said.

Local McDonald’s restaurants were helping with relief efforts by donating thousands of water bottles to the local Red Cross, and open McDonald’s restaurants in the Houston area provided free meals to first responders.

“We are confident Houston will recover from the incredible damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, and we hope this donation will help us get there a little quicker,” Matthew Kades, president of the McDonald’s Owner/Operators Association of Greater Houston, said in a statement.

Del Frisco’s aims to help food banks

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Inc. set a goal Wednesday of raising more than $1 million to help Houston-area food banks.

Through Monday, the Southlake, Texas-based company said 20 percent of sales at all 53 Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak Houses, Del Frisco’s Grilles and  Sullivan’s Steakhouses would be donated to support the Houston community.

“We are deeply saddened to see the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey,” said Norman Abdallah, CEO of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, in a statement. "As a Texas-based company, this storm has impacted many of our friends, family, team members and guests, and our thoughts are with all those impacted. It is our honor to engage our restaurants across the country to raise much needed money to support the Houston area food banks that are feeding those in need.”

All of the company’s Houston-area restaurants were scheduled to reopen Thursday. The company said it will pay all Houston-area employees that were unable to work during the storm closures.

Chili’s sponsors giving day

Chili’s Grill & Bar, which opened its second restaurant in Houston, in 1976, said it will donate part of its profits nationwide on Sept. 5 to help local food banks.

“Participating Chili’s restaurants nationwide will host a special Donate Profits Day with the goal of raising $250,000 for local food banks to help those affected by this terrible tragedy,” said Kelli Valade, president of the Dallas-based division of Brinker International Inc., in a statement.

“In times of great need, we are seeing the true generosity of the human spirit playing out right before our eyes,” Valade said. “We are proud to be a part of this community, and know that Texas and Louisiana will recover as we all come together to support them.”

Chili’s said it had more than 3,000 employees in the Houston area, and more than 1,300 restaurants nationwide.

“We are fortunate for our ChiliHeads and recognize that with our restaurants closed there are financial implications for them and their families, so we’re providing $1 million in relief pay as a gesture of support,” Valade said.

The company also opened the Brinker Family Fund, a charitable fund for team members in need of necessities such as rent or transportation.

“Since Monday, we’ve already raised more than $20,000, and we won’t stop there,” Valade said. “In addition to monetary donations, we recognize many basic supplies are needed, and have initiated a supply drive at the restaurant support center to gather items like diapers and school supplies, to send with our next support team headed to Houston and the surrounding areas.”

Hopdoddy raises funds

Hopdoddy Burger Bar, with 20 locations in Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas, will turn its monthly “Goodnight for a Good Cause” events on Sept. 4 and 5 into fundraisers for Harvey relief efforts, the company said.

On those days, all sales from the Austin, Texas-based brand’s Goodnight/Good Cause Burger ($8.25-$9.25 each) will be donated to relief efforts. In addition, Tito’s Handmade Vodka will donate $1, up to $10,000, for every drink Hopdoddy Burger Bar sells that’s made with the brand’s spirits.

In addition, throughout the month, $1 from the Goodnight/Good Cause burger sales will be donated to relief groups.

Buffalo Wild Wings to match donations

Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. on Thursday announced a nationwide fundraising initiative to support relief efforts.

From Sunday, Sept. 3, through Sunday, Sept. 17, participating Buffalo Wild Wings locations will match in-restaurant donations received from guests, up to $100,000, with a goal of $200,000 for the American Red Cross.

The Minneapolis-based full-service brand has 1,240 locations.

Starbucks donates, collects money

Starbucks Corp. donated $250,000 to American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey relief early in the week, and then expanded its efforts.

The Seattle-based coffee giant said beginning this week, customers could donate to the Red Cross at any U.S. company-operated store.

The company also said it would match employee contributions to the relief effort through its Partner Match program.

Pizza Hut delivers by kayak

A Pizza Hut regional manager in Sugar Land, Texas, got widespread notice when she and her available crew delivered hot pizzas via kayak during the Harvey flooding in Houston.

The city southwest of Houston was inundated with floodwaters, so Shayda Habib, the regional manager who was checking on restaurants, heard that some residents in the surrounding areas were trapped in their homes and running out of food.

“When I heard there were families in need, I knew we needed to act fast,” Habib said in a statement. “I called my husband and asked him to gather up kayaks and meet me at the restaurant.”

With a limited crew, she and her team prepared as many pizzas as possible and delivered them all day to neighbors.

“We are so proud of our team for seeing a need, stepping up and helping the community in a time of devastation,” said James Bodenstedt, the local franchisee.

Snooze pitches in

The 21-unit Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, said it will sponsor a systemwide donation day on Sept. 8.

The Denver-based breakfast chain said 10 percent of sales that day will go toward the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, created by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

“We are fully committed to paying our Snoozers their lost wages, plus an average of estimated tips for the days that were missed due to hurricane caused closure,” the company said. “We are offering our Houston Snoozers an Emergency Fund that they can apply for to cover incurred losses.”

Arby’s feeds Houston city workers

Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. sent its food truck to Houston this week, where it was feeding about 3,000 workers at the city’s emergency operations center, the company said Thursday.

“We’ve been told that many of the employees had gone two days without eating,” a spokesman for the Atlanta-based company said.

Arby’s also donated $100,000 to Feeding Texas, a hunger-relief organization, and targeted another $250,00 through fundraising at its 3,300 units across the nation.

BJ’s donates Pizookie proceeds

BJ’s Restaurants Inc. said all proceeds from sales on Sept. 5 of its $3 Pizookie desserts would be donated to the American Red Cross to support Houston relief efforts.

"With as many restaurants as we have in Texas, this storm has impacted

many of our team members, guests, friends, family,” said Greg Trojan, president

and CEO of the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based brewhouse operator. “Our hearts go out to those who have lost so much.”

BJ’s also said it would match donations from employees at the 194 units to the Give a Slice internal assistance program.

Fogo de Chão plans Labor Day fundraiser

Fogo de Chão Inc. on Labor Day will donate $10 from every adult entrée sold to the Houston Food Bank, the company said.

The Dallas-based churrascaria chain said it aimed to raise more than $100,000 at its 36 units nationwide.

Fogo de Chão also offered all first responders, including police, firefighters and military personnel, free lunch or dinner at its two Houston-area restaurants.

Darden adds to Red Cross donation

Darden Restaurants Inc. said its Darden Restaurants Foundation would donate $250,000 to the American Red Cross' Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

The foundation already contributes $500,000 to the Red Cross' Annual Disaster Giving Program, a spokesman said.

The Orlando, Fla.-based casual-dining company it was also activating its Darden Dimes employee assistance fund to help employees impacted by the storm.

Darden has 1,700 restaurants, including such brands as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V's.

Jersey Mike’s partners with food banks

More than 1,300 Jersey Mike’s Subs locations in September are raising funds for the food banks in Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, through two programs, the company said.

The Manasquan, N.J.-based sandwich chain said participating Jersey Mike’s locations will donate $1 for every regular-sized #7 Turkey Breast and Provolone sub sold from Sept. 11-17.

In addition, throughout the entire month, Jersey Mike’s will hand out special cards offering a free sub for a $2 donation to the food banks. Cards can be redeemed in participating restaurants from Sept. 15 through Dec. 1.

The company expects to raise $500,000 through the efforts.

“We are grateful to our local owners, managers and crews who dropped everything to make sub sandwiches for thousands of people in need, as well as for fire departments, EMS and other first responders,” said Peter Cancro, founder and CEO of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, in a statement.

John Enterline, Houston-area director for Jersey Mike’s, said all its franchisees and team members were safe, and its 16 locations in Houston and two units in Corpus Christi were now open.

Dalton Stewart, a Jersey Mike’s area director in Dallas, said locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were feeding evacuees at local shelters, as well as at the Red Cross Command Center.

Which Wich matches donations

Dallas-based Which Wich launched a PB&Js for Harvey campaign Thursday, donating $2 from every Project PB&J sandwich to the Red Cross.

The donations will continue through September, the company said, and it will match guest donations up to $100,000.

Which Wich has 437 locations in 42 states.

Jonathan Maze contributed to this report.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

Update: Sept. 1, 2017 This story has been updated with additional restaurants' fundraising efforts.

TAGS: Operations
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