SoCalGas is donating $525,000 for the second year in a row to the California Restaurant Foundation’s (CRF) Restaurants Care Resilience Fund. Last year, we co-founded the fund to help small restaurants recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and was also a leading donor.
Restaurants are encouraged to apply for a $3,000 grant. Restaurants Care Resilience Fund applications will be open from April 15-30, 2022, and can be found at www.restaurantscare.org/resilience. The grants will support kitchens and crews, which include equipment upgrades, employee retention, and deferred maintenance. All California-based restaurant owners with less than three units and less than $3 million in revenue are eligible to apply and priority will be given to restaurants owned by women and people of color.
Last year, 318 restaurants statewide received grants, 65% of which were women-owned and 83% owned by people of color. We talked to a few of the restaurant owners who were selected for grants last year and the response was heartwarming.
Tucked in the City of Maywood in Southeast Los Angeles, Rajas con Crema restaurant has a 5-star rating on Yelp and is run by wife-and-husband team Alicia and Javier Solorzano, who opened their dream Mexican restaurant in 2019 after more than 16 years in the catering business. The dishes are inspired by Alicia’s travels, recipes from friends, and family, while adding her own touch.
“We are extremely thankful to the California Restaurant Fund and SoCalGas for the grant, and for creating this fund to help local restaurants,” said Javier Solorzano, owner of Rajas con Crema. “Our concern was to survive, and the grant helped us give back to our community in a time of need. We were able to donate warm meals to local families while paying for our employees’ time. I highly encourage other restaurants to apply for this grant, it can make all the difference.”
You may have heard of another grant recipient from 2021, Natalia Pereira’s Woodspoon, a Brazilian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles which recently received the coveted MICHELIN Bib Gourmand award that recognizes restaurants with “value for money.” She said, "The Resilience Fund is such a special program on so many levels-the people and the program are wonderful, and this initiative has such an incredible impact on the restaurant community throughout the region!"
And for those who appreciate a fine dining experience, the Zagat-rated Shiro Restaurant in South Pasadena has been serving French food for over 34 years and received a grant award last year. According to Shiro owner Irene Yokoi, "There are no words to express our gratitude for receiving your funds during our turmoil to cope with Covid-19 closures. It has helped us a great deal, especially covering the cost of payroll."
“Restaurants and the families and employees that run them showed incredible resilience and strength as they adapted their businesses to serve all of us during the pandemic,” said David Barrett, vice president and general counsel at SoCalGas and California Restaurant Foundation board member. “Last year’s grants provided essential support to local restaurants as they struggled to keep their doors open. This year, grant funds will provide support for kitchens or crews, while overall supporting restaurant resiliency.”
“We are honored that SoCalGas has returned as a partner for this year’s Resilience Fund, and extremely grateful they identified the program as being worthy of one of their largest charitable donations planned for this year,” said Alycia Harshfield, Executive Director of California Restaurant Foundation. “SoCalGas’ generous contribution will help independent restaurant owners across central and southern California invest in their people, their equipment and ultimately, the long-term health and success of their business.”
This year, the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund will award nearly $1.5 million in grants to small businesses in 2022 thanks the support of SoCalGas, PG&E, SDG&E, and Wells Fargo.
“We are grateful to SoCalGas for their ongoing commitment to community and small businesses through this grant opportunity and many other efforts, including their food distributions in the City of Maywood and Southeast Los Angeles during the pandemic,” said Maywood Mayor Heber Marquez.
SoCalGas also offers programs and services for selecting energy-efficient equipment for any commercial customer. Restaurant owners can schedule a “try before you buy” equipment demo to test-drive gas cooking equipment before making a purchase, sign up for an energy survey by a utility expert, and receive information on rebates and incentives on qualified gas cooking equipment, water heating, heat recovery products and installation of eligible energy-efficient upgrades.
SoCalGas’ partnership with the California Restaurant Fund is part of the company’s ASPIRE 2045 sustainability goals, which includes a commitment to invest $50 million to drive positive change in diverse and underserved communities over the next five years. In addition to supporting the Restaurant Care Resilience Fund, in 2021, SoCalGas contributed $9.6 million in total community investment, $4.8 million to support health & human services, and $2.3 million to education causes. In 2021, SoCalGas’ Fueling Our Communities program provided over 9,800 free meals, over 2,600 grocery bags, and 2,520 restaurant gift cards totaling $60,400 in support of 25 local restaurants.
*Pictured above: Dishes at Rajas con Crema restaurant in Maywood. Courtesy of Rajas con Crema.