The annual Devour Indy Summerfest kicks off today in central Indiana. This year, the two-week culinary event will have a special benefit for the community; proceeds will support the Indiana Hospitality Relief Fund, which provides support to employees in the state’s hospitality industry who are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association Director of Operations Elise Shrock says the focus is on celebrating restaurants and their resiliency during the pandemic.
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Shrock said the last six months have been tough for the industry.
“We’re still trying to keep opening back up safely in ways where we can invite our guests and the public back in but it’s just been really tough,” said Shrock. “As we move through Summerfest this year, we’re really encouraging folks to get out there as a way to support your favorite restaurant, or maybe a new restaurant that you’re looking to try, and really just celebrate them, support them and have a great meal while you’re doing it.”
The Indiana Hospitality Relief Fund launched in April not long after the pandemic started. The fund provides one-time, $500 grants to eligible workers.
“We have had thousands and thousands of applications come in. We’ve been able to give out a few hundred of those grants, which is great. We’ve raised over $150,000 for this, but that goes quickly when so many folks are in need. So we’re really encouraging people, when they come out to devour, look for our website that’s listed…click over to the relief fund site and make sure to donate.”
Shrock says many hospitality workers have struggled by either finding themselves without a job or receiving reduced hours. She says the pandemic has compounded the difficulties of an industry that was already very difficult to get into and maintain.
“Budgets and margins are run on a hairline fraction, so when you’re only able to serve, you know, 25%-50% capacity and those numbers from week to week, food prices are variable, and…you’re looking over the health and safety of not just the guests, but your staff, all of those variables have just made it incredibly difficult for this industry to keep pushing forward but they keep doing it because that’s what hospitality does.”
You can learn more about the Devour Indy Summerfest and how it’s benefiting workers by clicking here.