Ruby Slipper Owners Launch Lagniappe Krewe Emergency Relief Fund
The pandemic has hit all customer-facing businesses – retail, health and beauty, and service. But the restaurant industry has been walloped.
A National Restaurant Association study, conducted from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, found that 95 percent of Louisiana restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume this August was significantly lower than it was last August and 43 percent said that without aid they will be out of business in six months.
More bad news, 38 percent of Louisiana restaurant operators do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months. Clearly, workers in this industry are hurting.
Erich and Jennifer Weishaupt, founders of the Ruby Slipper Café and Ruby Sunshine restaurants, recently announced the establishment of the Lagniappe Krewe Emergency Relief Fund in response to this crisis.
Lagniappe Krewe Fund grants are available to hospitality employees and their families who have experienced emergencies beyond their control resulting in financial hardship. Workers affected by Hurricanes Laura and Sally are also encouraged to apply for assistance.
Applications are open for the one-time, $500 grants and are being accepted now through an online application process. Applications can be found at www.lagniappekrewefund.com through Friday, Oct. 23.
“In the early days of COVID-19, it was apparent how devastating this pandemic was going to be for the hospitality industry as a whole and for the individuals who are at its heart,” said Jennifer Weishaupt. “Erich and I are grateful for the success we have had in our business and we knew that we needed to do something to directly help the people that make it happen every day.”
She knows that hospitality industry workers tend to be the first people to respond when the community is in need and are often the first to support the work of community charities and to assist in times of disaster.
“That being said, hospitality workers work long hours, for inconsistent pay and their livelihoods are uniquely dependent on economic conditions,” she said. “Hospitality workers are hit hard when disaster strikes and in fluctuating economic situations. Many do not have resources to handle unexpected hardships, temporary setbacks, illness or child-related work stoppage.”
The foundation will engage in fundraising activities and solicit donations from the public. It will also consider seeking grants from other nonprofits or governmental sources.
“Our relief efforts will focus on obtaining donations and providing relief to needy hospitality industry members in the form of assistance with meals, housing, medical costs, social services and alleviating other suffering experienced by needy individuals,” she said.
Currently, the Weishaupts have 15 of their 18 restaurants operational with just under 500 employees employed. The company’s 1005 Canal Street location in New Orleans is closed as it is inside the “Red Zone” of the Hard Rock Hotel demolition and is prevented from reopening until the demolition is complete. The Pensacola, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama locations were both impacted by Hurricane Sally and are closed for repairs, with reopening anticipated next week.
“We anticipate moving back into growth mode in 2021, with continued expansion of the Ruby Slipper and Ruby Sunshine brands throughout the Southeast.” she said.
The couple had to make some hard decisions during these difficult times and Jennifer believes hard decisions are best made swiftly.
“As a Ruby Slipper leadership team, we made very difficult staffing and cash flow decisions early in the pandemic,” she said. “Those swift decisions were the right ones and ultimately have been critical to our survival. Because we went quickly into a lean survival mode, Ruby Slipper was prepared and able to pivot quickly to rehire and reopen restaurants when it was allowed.”
The pandemic also provided the Weishaupts an opportunity to re-evaluate everything they did.
“Reopening with a much more streamlined staff requires streamlining of processes as well,” Jennifer said. “We looked at everything we did with an eye for ‘Why are we doing this?’ and ‘Does it still make sense?’”
From a personal perspective, the couple sees these times as an opportunity to declutter their life schedule and spend more time together as a family.
“When things are particularly challenging, as they have been in 2020 more than any year I can remember, it helps to step back and remember that this too shall pass,” she said. “As a person, learn the lesson that you will be better once it does pass. For me, that’s remaining focused on my team, my family and my personal health and well-being.”
The Lagniappe Krewe Emergency Relief Fund was founded to address the needs of hospitality industry workers and others suffering as a result of the pandemic. The organization’s mission is to raise funds from the public to help hospitality workers and their immediate families with emergency situations beyond their control which have caused financial hardship.
How Can You Help?
Readers and businesses can both help by spreading the word to impacted hospitality workers and by making a donation at www.lagniappekrewefund.com. One hundred percent of these tax-deductible donations will be distributed to those in need.
You can designate your donation as going to those affected by COVID-19 or by either of the recent hurricanes that hit Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.