A pair of Sacramento bartenders have launched a startup nonprofit called All My Friends Get Fed, which helps local restaurant workers get food and find jobs.
Jake Truong-Jones, a former bartender at Kru, founded the group in 2019, organizing bartenders and servers to pool tips to pay for meals for their colleagues. The pandemic hadn’t yet started, and some restaurant people were already struggling with making enough money to live and feed themselves. When COVID-19 forced restaurants to lay off workers, Truong-Jones saw an opportunity to assist his industry friends even further. A few months ago, he and fellow bartender Diego Padilla created an online restaurant job-listings board to help people get back to work. “We saw restaurants were posting jobs on Craigslist, Facebook and Indeed,” said Padilla. “They were hiring, but they couldn’t fill their positions. We wanted a central location for anybody who was looking for a job.”
The database is a simple Google Doc that lists openings for servers, bartenders, bussers, hosts, dishwashers, cooks, bakers, beertenders and more. Each listing includes the date the job was posted, information on when and how to apply, the person to contact, and a space where employers can leave notes, such as “$500 signing bonus” or “Need Saturday and Sunday brunch server. Very lucrative.”
According to Truong-Jones, the database has received a “good amount of use” from employers such as Paragary’s, Ella, de Vere’s Irish Pub and Chicago Fire. “We’re constantly getting contact from people asking us to add their business,” he said. Unlike Indeed and other employment websites that charge a fee to run listings, the All My Friends job board is free. “Places like Indeed can be expensive,” Truong-Jones says. “Some of these small businesses need as much help as they can get.”
The pair encourage restaurants to be creative in their job postings. “We see a lot of very uninspired job listings,” said Truong-Jones. “There’s a lack of personality, no demonstration of the work culture or mission statement of the business. I think that needs to change in order to recruit solid workers. We want businesses to show their true colors, because there are so many awesome ones out there.”
The duo hope to turn their database into a fully functioning job-search website, and are raising money through donations and charity dinners. They recently held their first fundraiser, a tasting-menu dinner prepared by Billy Ngo at Kru Japanese Contemporary Cuisine, and they plan to hold more events. (The group doesn’t yet have 501(c)(3) status, but they’re working on it.)
They’ve also partnered with St. John’s Program for Real Change to connect unhoused people to jobs in the food and hospitality industry. Their first St. John’s client recently accepted a job.
The pandemic shined a spotlight on the restaurant industry and the difficulties its workers face: long hours, physically demanding labor, inconsistent wages, lack of benefits and more. Truong-Jones and Padilla eventually hope to use All My Friends Get Fed to advocate for substantive changes. “We’re in an interesting point of reset in the industry,” said Padilla. “Everything is changing. It’s an opportunity for businesses to change what the model is. It will be interesting to see what restaurants are successful.”