Last year, Spiceology, a local spice blend company turned multi-million-dollar international phenomenon, brought on CEO Chip Overstreet to expand even further. But that was before the coronavirus partially or completely shut down restaurants across the country.
But even though Spiceology was down overall, Overstreet says, there was a bright spot: Their consumer business, selling spices and herbs in grocery stores like My Fresh Basket, was actually up 50 percent. Credit the surge in people wanting to cook for the first time, or at least up their cooking game while they were at home.
"Hopefully there will be something in the economic stimulus package [for restaurants]. Hospitality is the No. 1 employer in the country. Tens of millions of workers are being impacted, so it's a real issue," Overstreet says, before scoffing at his own phrasing. "How's that for an understatement: 'It's a real issue.' 'It's f—-ing insane,' how about that? "
Particularly hard hit have been the high-end restaurants that sell a fancy experience, instead of just something to scarf down on a TV tray while watching Netflix.
Chefs like Adam Hegsted (Yards, Wandering Table) and Chad White (Zona Blanca, High Tide Lobster Bar) have reported that they've been told that the "business interruption insurance" policies they took out to protect their businesses in case of a flood or a natural disaster won't apply to pandemics.
But this week, Spicelogy launched a website called "HelpChefs.Com," an attempt to aid the restaurant industry. It serves as both a clearinghouse for resources and advice for the foodservice industry — posting webinars like "Prepare your restaurant for surging delivery during COVID-19" — and a spot where companies can sell products to consumes to help out restaurants or chefs who are struggling.
The Coco Fund is aimed specifically at helping restaurants and employees who've been hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. Other participating companies include Certified Angus Beef and the Rosendale Collective, which will send a portion of its sales of certain products to the Restaurant Worker's Community Foundation.
"We came up with the concept at the end of the last week, and just worked over the weekend and called and emailed others and said, 'What can you guys do?' Everybody wants to participate," Overstreet says. "Every partner that comes in can choose to direct those funds to whatever they like. Provided it's something to do with the restaurant industry."
Ultimately, Overstreet argues, it's in everyone's interest that the restaurant industry is able to bounce back.