South Florida Restaurant Group Launches Nonprofit for Meal Distribution
Rodney Mayo of Subculture Restaurant Group invites industry to join in advocacy efforts
West Palm Beach, FL – In an effort to retain jobs and help feed those that have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurateur and owner of South Florida’s Subculture Group, Rodney Mayo, has founded Hospitality Helping Hands (H3), a community meal distribution nonprofit organization equipped to provide up to 3,000 warm meals daily in each location established within the West Palm Beach area.
H3 launched with its first distribution day on Saturday, March 21, in the parking lot of Howley’s Restaurant on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, where Mayo’s seven kitchen employees and 20 volunteers safely brought bags of food out to an endless pickup line of cars from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. With operations taking place every day since, H3 has provided thousands of free meals from the food reserves from the Subculture Group. H3 will be opening a second distribution at Hullabaloo on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach over the weekend, and has been working with Living Hungry, who is supporting by getting meals safely to the area’s elderly communities. In addition to establishing the initial distribution location, Mayo has been advocating the need for support funds to the City of West Palm Beach Commission, which to-date has granted H3 initial funds for the continuation of the program and growth into new locations. The Downtown Development Association has also provided a grant that will allow them to open the Hullabaloo distribution location. Mayo personally committed to match those donations dollar-for-dollar, doubling the total committed funds to more than $100,000. These funds and individual donations will allow the culinary team to stay employed and get paid every day that the distribution centers operate, while also covering the cost of food. Donations can be made on the organization’s website, HospitalityHelpingHands.org. “There was no way I could sit by and let any hard-working hospitality worker who lost their job virtually with 24 hours’ notice worry about where their next meal was coming from,” said Hospitality Helping Hands founder and restaurateur Rodney Mayo. “We had to do something and we had to do it fast. No one seemed to have a sense of urgency, seemingly not realizing these people who wait on us every day are also living paycheck to paycheck and have little, if no, savings. There was no time to wait for the bureaucratic engine of government to start up. People were hungry and they needed to be fed.” Mayo has also engaged area food suppliers and farms, seeking their support in providing affordable food and delivery supplies for the meal distribution operation. With the initial two-fold goal of retaining as many staff members as possible and providing free food to hospitality workers displaced due to restaurant and bar closure mandates, Mayo’s mission for H3 has since grown to include support to any area residents that are in need of a warm meal for themselves and their families, and to develop a membership model to allow other restaurants to participate and build their own distribution centers with funds secured. Becoming a member of H3 will allow area restaurants to retain or rehire staff while also supporting the local community. Members will be provided with a meal distribution operational model to create a sustainable plan for meal distribution centers at their own restaurants. Participating restaurants will also be given program guidelines, which will be required with the acceptance of support funds. This includes committing to providing an equal ratio of free to paid meals at their restaurants (i.e., if they sell 500 meals per day, they must provide 500 free meals per day), paying all staff equally- no matter their role or title- for the duration of their participation in the program, and continuing to maintain the same quality of food that has always been served at their establishment.
As for the distribution process, Mayo has established a contactless experience between the cars of people who come to receive food and his team of volunteers. Volunteers remain at safe distance as they approach each vehicle, then the driver can either roll down their window to request their meals, or keep the window rolled up and indicate with their fingers how many meals they will need. When the volunteer returns with the food, they signal for the driver to open the trunk and place the bags of food there for the driver to retrieve when they arrive back home.
As of today, Friday, March 27, Hospitality Helping Hands is solely operating its meal distribution in the parking lot of Howley’s Restaurant at 4700 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. It will be launching the second distribution at Hullabaloo over the weekend, and intends to grow with additional restaurant partners in the coming weeks to ensure everyone that needs a meal, receives a meal.
Carli Brinkman, Director Public Relations