Josh Kopel | Award Winning Restaurant Consultant

Restaurant Margins

Restaurant Funding: Chef Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Success

On today’s show, we chat with James Beard award winning chef Chris Shepherd founder of the non-profit, Southern Smoke.

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Most of us in the hospitality industry wouldn’t consider ourselves needy or in need of assistance. We’re internally motivated, not afraid of hard work and resourceful as hell. But when the pandemic hit it decimated our industry and our livelihoods. Out of the blue Southern Smoke came to the rescue. To date they have distributed millions of dollars to hospitality workers in need.

Today, it’s founder shares it’s origins, their mission and what they’re doing to ensure we’re all taken care of.

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  • Beginnings of charity work
  • Started doing dinners to raise money for culinary scholarships
  • Lost a colleague to MS. Business partner also had MS
  • Started planning a dinner for MS which transformed into a festival
  • Raised $181k for the MS Society year 1
  • Year 2 raised $284k
  • Beginnings of Southern Smoke
  • Hurricane Harvey devastated local businesses
  • No designated support for hospitality businesses
  • Emulated The Giving Kitchen from Atlanta
  • The vetting process at Southern Smoke
  • That first year there were 250 applications
  • 139 families awarded $500k
  • Southern Smoke continues to donate to MS, remainder to hospitality workers
  • Southern Smoke during Covid
  • Originally has 2.5 employees
  • Now has over 40 employees
  • Hire unemployed hospitality workers and trained them to be caseworkers
  • Over 25k applications
  • Granted over 1000 over $2million
  • Willy Nelson concert donated funds
  • Reopening of restaurants
  • Running at 50% capacity does not mean that 50% of potential covers will come to the restaurant
  • Many people still not comfortable enough for dine-in
  • Pivoting the restaurant business
  • The aim is to break-even, not to make profit
  • Having a solid team is vital
  • Unity and solidarity
  • Punch fear in the face
  • How to achieve work-life balance
  • Delegate to mangers to do the long shifts
  • Building on a great legacy
  • Won many accolades
  • Started incredible restaurants
  • Started non-profit
  • Next steps
  • Aim is to create a group of restaurants that enable Chris’ team to fulfill their dreams
  • Putting restaurant people where they want to be
  • Southern Smoke as inspiration for future non-profits to build safety nets for every industry
  • To the industry
  • Keep your head down
  • We’ll get through this together
  • Use your voice for good
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