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The magic of restaurants…

By September 2, 2020 No Comments

Restaurants are for meeting people you’d never meet, for striking up conversations at the bar and walking away with a lifelong friend. They’re for making big announcements in banquet rooms surrounded by all your families and friends. They’re for creating communities that check in on each other when a regular hasn’t been around for awhile. For celebrating big moments with bottomless cocktails and desserts as big as your head. They’re for first dates and 50th wedding anniversaries. For first jobs and lifelong investments.

Lyndsey Gruber

Throughout the initial response to the pandemic and the subsequent calls for support of local restaurants and bars as they took the brunt of lockdowns and quarantines, I found myself aching for the people I have spent so many years working beside. If you’ve been in the industry long enough you’ve probably experienced the pain of losing your job due to a restaurant closing. I have, and it’s awful anytime it happens. But here, we have millions and millions of hospitality workers stuck, with no option but to sit at home and hope that their employer would be able to weather the storm and survive.

We’ve seen some shocking restaurant closings in KC, and independent, local restaurants without the luxury of big corporate bank accounts are being hit the hardest.

I wasn’t the only one hurting for the hospitality industry. Seemingly overnight, laws were passed to allow to-go liquor sales, organizations churned out lists of the best curbside options in the city, and citizens flocked to buy gift cards, order to-go meals and share menus and recommendations with their friends.

Seeing so many people rally around the industry it became clear that just about everyone is touched, in some way shape or form, by restaurants and the food and beverage industry.

For me, my connection is cherished childhood memories. As a kid, my dad worked as a sales rep for Pisciotta’s Fruit & Vegetable Co. As is common for sales folks, he would often need to swing by a customer’s place on his way home from work to drop something off or just check in. And usually, I would get to tag along.

I have many great memories sitting on the counters of kitchens in some of Kansas City’s most beloved establishments, happily eating a giant chocolate chip cookie while my dad bullshitted with the chefs (his absolute favorite past-time).

It wasn’t just those afternoons with my dad though – restaurants were ubiquitous with celebration and almost magical to me as a child.

For our family, it wasn’t all that often the kids got to go out to eat. For special occasions we’d sometimes get the whole family together in a big banquet room in a dimly lit steak house in South Kansas City. I can remember the anticipation that would come sitting in the waiting area as different relatives would arrive. Grandmas and aunts with mink coats, uncles with a funny joke, and cousins with gossip about the other relatives that they’d overheard at the most recent family event.

These family dinners out were also special because there was rarely a kids table. We got to mix in with the adults and sit next to our favorite aunts and uncles, eavesdropping on conversations we frequently didn’t understand, but relished in all the same.

Perhaps someone would nonchalantly throw out a swear word, and all the kids would look wide-eyed at each other. (This would almost always happen. It was exciting each time nonetheless.)

I can’t tell you about the food. As a 6 or 7 year old I’m sure I found the chicken tenders satisfactory. But the atmosphere. The connection to family and friends. The specialness of it. That was what made it all so alluring.

A lot of the magic of the industry gets rubbed off after almost a decade of working in bars and restaurants, but there’s still something pretty marvelous about going out to eat.

Not having to cook and clean are definitely big factors, but there’s more to it than that.

Restaurants are for meeting people you’d never meet, for striking up conversations at the bar and walking away with a lifelong friend. They’re for making big announcements in banquet rooms surrounded by all your families and friends. They’re for creating communities that check in on each other when a regular hasn’t been around for awhile. For celebrating big moments with bottomless cocktails and desserts as big as your head. They’re for first dates and 50th wedding anniversaries. For first jobs and lifelong investments.

It’s more than just a business.

And that’s why so many people sprung to action to keep their favorite eateries going strong through the pandemic. That’s why we, collectively, as a city, decided that we would support our local restaurants through this pandemic and prevent as many closures as we possibly could. Because they’re important to us. That sense of magic isn’t just something I made up. Lots of people know that feeling.

When PEPPR launches our Party Packages this Fall, we’ll be doing so with one goal: to help our restaurant partners.

This means working with each individual vendor to create menus and guidelines that work for their kitchens. This means no last minute orders, requiring 24 hours notice so restaurants aren’t scrambling in the middle of the dinner rush. This means no fees or commissions for all of our vendors until this crisis is over.

No fees. No commissions. Not a dollar spent on PEPPR for any of our vendors for at least the remainder of 2020, and for as long as COVID-19 is directly affecting restaurants’ ability to make money.

PEPPR exists because I was given opportunities behind the bar in Kansas City restaurants and bars. Because I made lifelong friends in the industry who are worried their livelihood is on the line for the first time in our lifetimes.

I look forward to supporting the KC restaurant industry by continuing to order to-go and purchase gift cards. But I’m very excited to be able to offer this support to them as well.

Cheers,
Lyndsey Gruber
PEPPR Founder and CEO