KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Friends Todd Heeter and Jay Rustenholz have teamed up to help and highlight the restaurant industry amid the pandemic.
Their grassroots campaign, dubbed #Locallove Kalamazoo, launched on social media earlier this month. The effort encourages the community to support local restaurants, while also raising money to help struggling restaurant workers.
"The highest number I've seen is 75% of like the workforce in the restaurant world has been laid off," said Heeter, who works in the food service industry himself. "I know 2,000 to 3,000 restaurants have closed and 6,000 more could close due to this, you know, the pandemic and just how bad they've been hit."
"I mean, think about what they're doing. They're opening up their patios, in the middle of winter to try to generate revenue and they're putting heaters out there and those sorts of things. And so, you know they need our help."
Heeter and Rustenholtz are creating content to showcase local restaurants online and even creating behind-the-scenes videos to share with the community.
"Every week we're doing a different one where we're actually in the kitchen with these guys," explained Rustenholtz. "And we're just trying to celebrate the creative art, if you will, of what actually goes into making food. And that's kind of one avenue we're going to basically just raise awareness to this cause of the #Locallove campaign."
Community members are also encouraged to snap selfies and post when they visit restaurants and order their favorite takeout.
"The response of these people has been overwhelming, they've actually received it so well," said Heeter. "It's really been amazing."
The goal is to raise $100,000 dollars; $10,000 of which has already poured in over the past few weeks.
The duo is working with the non-profit Guys Who Give to collect donations.
"100% of what we make will go back to these struggling workers," said Heeter. "I mean, 'tis the season', right? I mean, giving is always better than receiving... it's not about us at all. It's about helping and it's about doing what's right. And this is what's right."
To learn more about #Locallove Kalamazoo, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here.