The COVID-19 outbreak has meant there has been a lot to do for healthcare workers at Northside Hospital Forsyth, and with that in mind, some local businesses are working to take care of those fighting the disease on the frontlines.
As healthcare workers have responded to the needs of the community, local restaurants have taken it upon themselves to make sure employees are eating well.
“These people are the salt of the earth here, and we want to give back,” said Jonathan Ng, owner of Ichiban at The Collection, which specializes in steak and sushi. “The community was so gracious to welcome us when we first took over last summer and bring us in. We love our customers, and we want to make sure we give back in a time of need, and this is our chance, and our product we can give back is food.”
Ng estimated his sales had dropped up to 90% since the novel coronavirus outbreak and said he had considered closing the restaurant until the pandemic was over.
After thinking about it and talking to his wife, who is a register nurse, he decided to leave the restaurant open for takeouts and deliveries and use those profits to feed employees.
“As a group, we made a decision that, 'Hey listen, we don't have revenue coming in, I probably can't pay you guys, especially my head sushi chef and head kitchen chef, and they were fine staying on board with the notion that we would be donating food that we have here to people in need, whether it's the hospital or people out of work who just need meals to get through day-by-day,” Ng said.
Ng said they've fed employees “a handful of days” starting with hibachi and including some sushi.
Employees who might not be fans of Japanese cuisine have had other options, such as pizza, salad and breadsticks.
“It seems to be pizza is America's No. 1 choice for food, so it's no surprise that's what they went for,” said Constantine Tzortzis, who co-owns Giorgio's Restaurant with his parents, Elleni and Dimitri.
While restaurants have been among the hardest businesses hit as customers have tried to practice social distancing, Tzortzis said Giorgio's shifted its business to takeout and deliveries and is running “at a pretty good pace.”
“This was more about just realizing how blessed we were in our position and trying to figure out how we can use that blessing to help others," he said, "because, at the end of the day, we're still open, we're still paying the bills and we're still keeping our employees being hired for the time being."
Tzortzis said that even with all of the fallout and negatives tied to the outbreak, it was encouraging to see the community come together.
“Obviously, you get the scenarios that it's all doom and gloom, but humanity and people in general, it brings the best out in them,” he said. “Everyone talks about how divided everybody is, but as a county and as a community, I've seen so many people come together and just support one another. It feels great to see it happen. It's pretty cool.”
While it takes a lot of work to make sure the workers are fed, Ng said the reactions make it all worth it.
“It's funny, the first time, some of the nurse supervisors said, 'Oh, you're angels. I want to give you a hug,'” Ng recalled. “I'm like, 'Whoa, no, you can't. Were social distancing. You guys should know better.'"