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National Restaurant Association - Industry lends hand to tornado victims

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Industry lends hand to tornado victims

Restaurateurs in Oklahoma and around the country are reaching out to help victims of the May 20 tornado that hit Moore, Okla., donating food and funds to those caught in the storm.

According to published reports, the tornado killed 24 people and destroyed 11,000 homes.

Jim Hopper, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, said a number of mobile kitchens have been set up to help feed emergency responders and those who were displaced by the storm.

At the National Restaurant Association, President and CEO Dawn Sweeney urged members to take part in the relief efforts.

“In the wake of this week's devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, the National Restaurant Association grieves over the loss of life, injuries and the damage sustained to homes, businesses, schools and other properties in the state,” she said.

“As always, restaurateurs in Oklahoma are filling in as ‘first responders’ where they can, supporting their communities in as many ways as possible. To help with recovery efforts, our partners at the Oklahoma Restaurant Association recommend giving to the American Red Cross's Oklahoma chapter at http://www.redcross.org/ok/oklahoma-city and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma at http://www.regionalfoodbank.org.”

ORA chief Hopper said numerous local restaurant companies are pitching in, including Sonic Corp., the Good Egg Dining Group, Hideaway Pizza and Stella Modern Italian, to name a few.

“A lot of people are helping out, he said. “We really want to thank them for their generosity. Many are donating food, but financial donations are really what’s needed right now.”

For Oklahoma City-based Sonic Corp., the tornado hit close to home and the quickservice chain jumped into action. Spokesman Patrick Lenow said, “Many of the restaurants are very active in the relief efforts. We have been serving meals, providing water and ice – whatever the Red Cross tells us it needs.”

He added that the company also made a financial commitment, but did not publicly disclose the amount.

San Diego-based quickservice chain Jack-in-the-Box, which operates seven stores in the Oklahoma market, also made a donation to help the storm’s victims. The company has launched a fundraising campaign at its restaurants in Oklahoma, Texas and other Midwestern states to support the relief efforts, spokesman Brian Luscomb said. “We’re collecting money from guests with all donations going to the American Red Cross.”

The company also said it would hold a one-day burger giveaway at its stores in Oklahoma on May 28, asking customers for donations from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. All proceeds from the event will go to the Red Cross as well.

Yard House Restaurants, the Irvine, Calif.-based casual-dining chain, said it is donating funds to the Red Cross through its Round it Up America program, which allows its patrons to “round up” their purchases to the nearest dollar, automatically donating the change to such charities as the American Red Cross.

Other, smaller operations, like Mutt’s Amazing Hot Dogs in Oklahoma City, are also contributing to the cause. Mutt’s has donated proceeds from chicken and waffles sales to the relief effort. And Carl Sobocinski of the 301 Restaurant Group in Greenville, S.C., said he is donating 100 percent of his Sunday, May 26 brunch sales.

Oklahoma natives Rick Bayless and Danny Bowien also have been active in fund-raising efforts.

Celebrity chef Bayless, owner-operator of the Mexican restaurants Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco in Chicago, is donating $1 from the sale of every order of guacamole and chips at all of his restaurants for a week. On May 22, he announced on his Twitter feed that he’d extended the offer to include his restaurants at O’Hare International Airport, tweeting, “Several have asked if we can extend the $1 per guac sale for tornado relief to our O’Hare spots. Yes! Enjoy ur guac and know it does good.”

Bowien and local chefs Chris Becker, Marc Dunham, Kurt Fleischfresser, Jonathon Stranger and Josh Valentine are participating in the OK Chefs Relief pop-up restaurant, where they are preparing three-course meals for anyone donating $35 or more to the Red Cross.

“There are so many individuals who want to help out in any way they can,” Hopper said. “This industry is very generous and, unfortunately, things have happened too often where they’ve had to step up and help out.”

Pictured, top right: The May 20 tornado killed 24 people and destroyed 11,000 homes.

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