Kindness is not 86’d: The Spirit of Hospitality in a World of COVID-19

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the hashtag #hospitalitystrong began to trend among the hospitality industry

Source: Travel Media Group

By Dr. Suzanne Markham Bagnera and Leah Tringale

Beginning in March of 2020, individuals started the practice of the unfamiliar act of social distancing. Along with the uncertainty of the virus, many of us are left apprehensive about the future. Having consensual physical contact with other people and enjoying the company of others in the flesh releases chemicals in the brain and body (e.g. endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin) that give us feelings of happiness and even love (Dewan, 2020). Humans generally thrive from social interaction—making self-isolation feel unnatural. The option of enjoying a glass of Barolo and a charcuterie board, while engaging in meaningful conversation with the bartender at a local restaurant, is temporarily unavailable. For centuries, many have leaned on the shoulders of hospitality personnel for company, laughter and guidance. What have the restaurants, hotels, distributors, suppliers and other members of the hospitality community been doing during this time? While hospitality establishments start to reopen, it is crucial to remember how an overwhelming amount of those in the hospitality business have been aiding the community in extraordinary measures.


Eleven Madison Park, a three-star Michelin rated NYC restaurant is now operating as a food commissary for those in need and for NYC’s first responders. Chef-owner, Daniel Humm, shares the “meals we’re cooking today are some of the proudest moments in my career” (Alarcón, 2020).

Jody Adam’s Boston-based restaurants, Porto, Saloniki and Trade, teamed up with the charities Off Their Plate and World Central Kitchen to prepare freshly cooked meals for front-line workers and displaced hospitality employees. So far, over six million dollars has been raised, providing up to 70,000 meals per week (Off Their Plate, 2020; Trade | Porto | Saloniki GIVES Organized by Elissa Rae, 2020). The team worked tirelessly to serve those who are bravely serving our community. Many restaurants across the country are doing similar efforts to assist those in need.

Frontline health workers express their thanks to the World Central Kitchen organization for their generosity in providing meals

Source: World Central Kitchen

COVID-19 took a major financial toll on David Dale, owner of Kingdom Bean Coffee Roastery. Despite a substantial income decrease, Dale donated over $1000 in coffee beans, in just one week, to the local Louisville, Kentucky fire and police departments (Baileys, 2020).

Restaurateur and celebrity chef, Guy Fieri partnered with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to create a charity to benefit restaurant industry workers affected by COVID-19 the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF). The educational foundation of the NRA is familiar with dispersing money and helping with scholarships (McCarthy, 2020). Fieri’s goal is to raise $100 million for the charity with $500 disbursements to eligible employees. As of April, over $20 million has been donated (National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, 2020; Petre, 2020). Celebrity chef Rachael Ray has donated over $2 million to charities, including the NRA (Saxena, 2020).

After COVID-19, Guy Fieri and NRA joins together to create the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF)

Source: National Restaurant Association

Beverage Distributors and Suppliers

Many beer, wine, and spirits distributors and suppliers have made generous efforts to help those negatively affected by the virus.

In 2019, over 16.78 million people made up the hospitality and leisure workforce—many of which are now left unemployed or furloughed (Lock, 2020). Samuel Adams and The Greg Hill Foundation teamed up to create Restaurant Strong Fund. Soon after a successful start, Samuel Adams jump-started the donations by contributing $2 million. The Restaurant Strong Fund was unveiled in Massachusetts on March 18th raising nearly $500,000 from 2,000 individual donors in its first week, with support from athletes David Ortiz to Jimmy Develin and chefs Ming Tsai, Chris Coombs and Ken Oringer (“Restaurant Strong Fund: About,” 2020).

After COVID-19, Samuel Adams and The Greg Hill Foundation teamed together to create Restaurant Strong Fund to provide aid for those who have been negative impacted by the pandemic crisis.

Source: Samual Adams

Between Restaurant Strong Fund, NHLRA and National Restaurant Association, the wine and spirits distributor, Martignetti Companies donated over $300,000 to assist the hospitality community members in need (Martignetti Companies, 2020).

  • The United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) National Charity Foundation has committed over $7 million for the COVID-19 relief fund, with 3,900+ donors and over 500 volunteers (USBG, 2020).
  • Many suppliers have made generous contributions to charities. Diageo (parent company to brands such as Ketel One, Don Julio, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan) has donated over $4 million to various charities, including $1 million to USBG (Pageler, 2020). Diageo also unveiled its $20 million community fund to aid black communities and businesses recover from the COVID-19 virus.
  • Other liquor suppliers such as Pernod Ricard has made monumental contributions, including producing and donating 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, in the midst of a shortage on retail shelves (Brunner, 2020).

The beer, wine and spirits sector of the industry has thrived off of the efforts of those working in hospitality operations. The distributors and suppliers have overwhelmingly shared their appreciation.


Vermont-based ice cream company, Ben and Jerry’s, has raised awareness regarding a less-discussed COVID-19 issue—sanitation in correctional facilities. COVID-19 has spread rapidly throughout prisons. This not only affects the inmates, but those who are visiting, attorneys, guards, and other personnel. According to the company, correctional facilities have never been able to provide adequate healthcare; hand sanitizer and soap aren’t even allowed in many jails and prisons (Ben & Jerry’s, 2020). Ben and Jerry’s created a petition titled, Humanity Not Cages—Demanding a Just and Humane Response to Outbreak. The petition is to raise awareness and to demand federal and state action.


Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel across the world are battling COVID-19 directly. Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street in New York City opened its doors to shelter many of those working in neighboring hospitals. While reservations are temporarily unable to be made by the general public, the ownership group Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts saw this as an opportunity to let those, who otherwise would have to travel a great distance to work, reside in a luxury room—free of charge (Barone, 2020; Caplan, 2020; Kim, 2020). The five-star property is not only providing shelter for the brave individuals, it is minimizing the risk of spread for the families and community.

Hotelier and Travel Channel’s host of Hotel Impossible, Anthony Melchiorri, has teamed up with SKAL International to create the #HospitalityStrong fund.  The funds raised will be disbursed to employees working in hotels, restaurants, catering facilities, attractions, or one of many other hospitality-related organizations comprised in the tourism economy (USA #HospitalityStrong Relief Fund Organized by USA HospitalityStrong, 2020).

After COVID-19, Anthony Melchiorri partners with SKAL International to create the #HospitalityStrong fund to support employees working in the hospitality industry.

Source: Skal International USA

A Generous Future

Restaurateur, Alice Walter once stated:

Our full humanity is contingent on our hospitality; we can be complete only when we are
giving something away; when we sit at the table and pass the peas to the person next to
us we see that person in a whole new way” (Waters, n.d.).

Although the hospitality industry is experiencing a time of incertitude, the level of generosity is unparalleled.  As a community, we can continue the generous efforts of the hospitality industry, whether it be financially or through raising awareness.

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Alarcón, C. (2020, April 15). A few ways restaurants are helping others, and how you can help. Forbes.

Baileys, J. (2020, April 10). Louisville coffee shop owner makes donation to first responders despite losing business due to COVID-19. WLKY News.

Barone, V. (2020, March 25). Four Seasons offers free stay for medical workers fighting coronavirus. New York Post.

Ben & Jerry’s. (2020). Mass incarceration in the time of COVID-19: Racist, risky, and reversible. Benjerry.

Brunner, J. (2020, April 20). Complete List of Distilleries (Including Anheuser-Busch) Making Hand Sanitizers Instead of Spirits. Parade.

Caplan, D. (2020, March 25). Four seasons on billionaires row to house medical workers responding to NYCs coronavirus outbreak: I heard Cuomos call to action. 1010 Wins Radio.

Dewan, A. (2020, April 2). Humans are terrible at social distancing. Heres what to do about it. CNN.

Kim, L. (2020, March 25). The four seasons New York is offering its rooms free to medical workers. Town & Country.

Lock, S. (2020, March 18). Hospitality industry: Employees US 2019. Statista.

Martignetti Companies. (2020, April). LinkedIn.

McCarthy, K. (2020, April 1). Guy Fieri launches relief fund for restaurant industry workers impacted by coronavirus. ABC News.

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. (2020). National restaurant association educational foundation. Choose Restaurants.

Off their plate. (2020). Classy.

Pageler, J. (2020, April 23). Diageo north america pledges more than $4 million to the bar and restaurant community. Diageo.

Petre, H. (2020, April 28). Guy Fieri and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundations relief fund hits $20M and can now help 40,000 restaurant workers. Nation’s Restaurant News.

Restaurant strong fund: About. (2020). Restaurant Strong.

Saxena, J. (2020, April 8). Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri give big to food charities, restaurants, and service worker funds. Eater.

Trade | Porto | Saloniki GIVES organized by Elissa Rae. (2020, March 26). Gofundme.Com.

USA #HospitalityStrong relief fund organized by USA HospitalityStrong. (2020, April 24). Gofundme.Com.

USBG. (2020, April 29). Social responsibility. Community service. Philanthropy. COVID-10 relief & response. USBG National Charity Foundation.

Waters, A. (n.d.). Top 100 quotes & sayings about hospitality. Quotes Sayings. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from

Profile image of Suzanne Markham Bagnera in a blue blouse

Suzanne Markham Bagnera, PhD, MBA, CHA is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Hospitality Administration at Boston University, where she specializes in teaching hotel operations and human resources. A Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), Suzanne has had over 25 years of hospitality experience having held positions as General Manager at Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Staybridge Suites, and Holiday Inn Express. Suzanne earned her M.B.A. and B.S. from Johnson & Wales University her doctorate from Iowa State University in Hospitality Management.

Profile image of Leah Tringale in a grey sweater

Leah Tringale, MS., is a Key Account Manager for Martignetti Companies, on behalf of Moët-Hennessy and Diageo. Leah has over seven years of hospitality operational experience—her last operational title being Food and Beverage Manager at The Colonnade Hotel. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science from Boston University School of Hospitality Administration, with a concentration in Hospitality Real Estate Development. She then received her Master’s of Science in Project Management from Wentworth Institute of Technology.

*Note: Her authorship of this article does not reflect the views of Martignetti Companies, Moët-Hennessy or Diageo.


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