How Baton Rouge restaurants and businesses teamed up to help each other

The stay-at-home order closed nearly 1,600 Baton Rouge restaurant dining rooms this spring, according to Mayor Sharon Weston Broome. The closures impacted about 30,000 employees.

But that didn’t stop the city from moving forward. Baton Rougeans are like magnets—we stick together. The people of the Capital Region have always proven resilient and eager to help each other through tough times, and what we saw during the coronavirus outbreak was no different. Local restaurants and organizations came together to raise awareness and funds for restaurants and servers. Here are ways they supported each other during the shutdown.

The Keep BR Serving campaign

On March 17, just one day after bars and restaurant dining rooms were shuttered, the Mayor’s Office and the Baton Rouge Restaurant Association launched this campaign to help restaurants pay their employees for lost tips and wages. The community was encouraged to purchase gift cards from local restaurants, with the promise that 20% of gift card sales during the dining-in shutdown would go toward employee wages. Rotolo’s owner Mitch Rotolo recruited restaurants, with the campaign quickly growing to include more than 200 businesses. Any restaurant was welcome to join. “Our restaurants are an integral part of the small business fabric of our community,” Broome says. “Our culture is rooted in food, so we needed to act quickly.” brla.gov

Better Together Baton Rouge Restaurant Coalition

On March 19, Emelie Alton of Bistro Byronz and Stephen Hightower of City Pork Hospitality Group created the coalition to incentivize customers to support a variety of local restaurants during the shutdown. Customers who ordered from 10 of the participating restaurants received a $50 gift card to a restaurant of their choice, and those who ordered from all the participating restaurants received a $100 gift card. Participants included Doe’s Eat Place, Eliza Restaurant and Bar, Kalurah Street Grill, Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine, Main Squeeze Juice Co., Raising Cane’s, Soji Modern Asian and more than 20 others. Find Better Together Baton Rouge Restaurant Coalition on Facebook

Iverstine Farms’ gift card scavenger hunt

Beginning March 19, Iverstine Farms dropped off $50 gift cards for its butcher shop at select local eateries like Beausoleil Restaurant & Bar, Counterspace BR and Rocca Pizzeria. Customers ordering from the selected restaurants had a chance to win an Iverstine Farms gift card. Find Iverstine Farms on Instagram at @iverstinefarms

Perkins Rowe’s Buy a Meal, Give a Meal campaign

Starting March 20, meals and gift cards purchased at the mixed-use development’s participating restaurants also provided a meal to students in need. A percentage of all sales was donated to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Participating restaurants included Rouj Creole, Bin 77, Jinya Ramen and La Madeleine. perkinsrowe.com

Restaurant fundraisers supporting those in need

As COVID-19 cases climbed, we increasingly saw initiatives serving everyone from hospital staff to children home from school. Mid City Beer Garden held a seafood dinner fundraiser with part of the proceeds donated to Baton Rouge General for the purchase of hospital supplies. The Baton Rouge Emergency Aid Coalition launched #ScrubGrub to feed frontline medical staff, teaming up with local businesses and restaurants. Restaurants such as District Donuts, Burgersmith and Walk-On’s cooked meals for schoolchildren, frontline medical workers and furloughed employees. And 225 launched its own promotion, collecting donations through our 225 Best Eats platform for The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. A $10 donation equated to 30 meals for families in need, and we had raised more than $10,000 at press time.

This article was originally published as part of the ‘Restaurants fight to survive’ cover story in the May 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.