NewsPinellas County


Pinellas County businesses turn tips into fresh food for laid off employees

Posted at 3:41 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 18:30:13-04

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In the midst of a health crisis, employers are finding ways to give back to their employees across the Tampa Bay area.

For Michael “Frenchy” Preston, workers at his business mean the world.

PINELLAS NEWS | The latest headlines from Pinellas County

“We want to make sure that we take care of everybody, make sure they're doing well, and we do our part,” said Preston.

Frenchy’s Clearwater Beach Restaurants temporarily laid off its hourly workers because of the COVID-19 crisis. Its sister company, Clear Sky restaurants, did the same.

"Basically everything came to a screaming halt,” said Preston. “From there, we’re just like everybody else. We’re going day to day, week to week, trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do.”

Despite the layoffs and scaled back operations, both businesses found people being generous with tips on their take-out and delivery orders. That money was turned around and put toward out-of-work employees in the form of fresh produce and groceries, with the businesses buying bulk quantities and packing food up in bags.

Frenchy's even decided to match every dollar raised in tips at their restaurant locations. On Friday, staff loaded food into employee's cars.

“I’m not going to say that I’m surprised because I’ve been with this company over a year and I see the way that they treat us, but every little thing counts at a time like this,” said Jacob Carson.

Carson is one of the up to 500 employees the food went out to Friday. Bags contain enough food to last 7 to 10 days.

“It’s so crucial right now when you have nothing and you’re down to your last $100 in savings,” said Keirston Blackmon, a Frenchy’s employee. “This is amazing.”

Preston says they plan to do food distribution for employees about every 10 days.

“It’s just a big team effort,” said Preson. “We’re getting it done, and we’re going to feed a bunch of people and take care of them until we can get them back to work.”