This summer Goldbelly launched the Local Legends Fund, a creative corporate giveback program. The fund’s mission: bring 100 restaurants back to life, to resurrect beloved local shops that have had to close due to unexpected challenges, including the pandemic, and make them even stronger than they were before. Early recipients of aid included Jones’ Bar-B-Q, Arkansas’ oldest black-owned restaurant, Rotier’s, a beloved Nashville burger joint, and Shirley Chung’s Ms. Chi, an artisan dumpling shop in Los Angeles.
Forbes' David Hessekiel spoke with Goldbelly cofounder and CEO Joe Ariel about the initiative:
David Hessekiel: Please share a bit about the genesis of the “Local Legends Fund” concept.
Joe Ariel: The last year for restaurants has been devastating. Like so many people, we’ve been hearing about these beloved establishments that have had to close their doors because of different challenges, either due to the pandemic or other unexpected hardships. The idea for this initiative really came to fruition earlier this year when we heard about the closing of Rotier’s, an iconic restaurant in Nashville that was famous for its burgers served on French bread. Having gone to college in Nashville, I spent a lot of time at Rotier’s and it was one of those places that I couldn’t imagine losing. We got in touch with the owners to see how we could help and we decided to bring them back online with a new e-commerce shop to ship nationwide.
Right around the same time, we heard about the devastating fire that tore through Jones’ Bar-B-Q, one of the country’s oldest Black-owned businesses located in the tiny town of Marianna, Arkansas, and an important part of American food history. We were heartened to see the groundswell of community support they received from BBQ lovers near & far, and we got in touch with them to understand the best way a Goldbelly contribution could help. They let us know that new smokers would be essential to reopen, so we donated the funds to replace those while also setting them up with the tools and resources for nationwide shipping to help make up for the business they lost this year.
From there, the idea to establish a fund to help restaurants with similar circumstances was born and our team started reaching out to other spots we thought we could help. This was a real labor of love across several teams in the company to bring it to life. Since our founding, it’s been part of our DNA to celebrate America’s food makers and we’re so proud that we’re able to make a real difference in the industry with this initiative.
Hessekiel: How much funding is Goldbelly dedicating to this effort and how long does the company envision it will take to revive 100+ restaurants?
Ariel: The fund is uncapped right now. Our first goal is to revive 100 restaurants that have closed their doors and provide them with the equipment, resources, industry expertise and/or capital they need to ensure they come back stronger than before. Right now, there’s no set timeline as we envision this will be an ongoing initiative for Goldbelly moving forward. We were thrilled to see many nominations come in through the site over the last few weeks and have already started conversations with these restaurants to see how we can help.
Hessekiel: Do you envision any of the supported restaurants becoming part of the Goldbelly network of restaurants?
Ariel: We would love to see that happen. Our goal is to bring these restaurants back and make them even stronger than they were before by setting them up for long-term success. We’re planning to work with each restaurant on a case by case basis to give them the support they need - whether that’s through direct contributions, assistance with rent, equipment purchases or investment in shipping infrastructure and more.
We’ve seen firsthand the impact that e-commerce and national shipping can have for restaurants. By opening up an entirely new national customer base and new revenue streams, we’re able to provide these local mom and pop shops with an opportunity to compete in a national economy that they couldn’t previously access.