Drew Barrymore just tipped Phoenix-based vegan restaurant Verdura $5,000.
On a recent episode of The Drew Barrymore Show, the host spoke with award-winning food blogger Diana Brandt, who has found a way to help local restaurants struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brandt, known as AZ Foodie on Instagram, collects donations via Venmo and then uses them to leave generous tips.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, the blogger was able to leave a $1,000 tip for Vendura. After hearing about Brandt’s work, Barrymore surprised her and Verdura’s owner, Julia Chugerman, on the show with a tip of her own.
“Our friends at the plant-based company Field Roast wanted to join in on the tipping, too because Diana has inspired all of us, including them,” Barrymore said. “And we would love to leave a $5,000 tip at your restaurant.”
Chugerman was forced to close Verdura three times due to the pandemic. She told LIVEKINDLY she was shocked to receive the generous tip. “We had no idea we were receiving anything, let alone something as crazy as $5,000! We all work paycheck to paycheck so seeing that amount of money is going to be pretty insane,” she said.
Helping Struggling Businesses Amid the Pandemic
According to the National Restaurant Association, as of September, nearly 1 in 6 restaurants have been forced to close. This is primarily due to government-mandated shutdowns. As a result, millions of foodservice and restaurant employees have been furloughed or laid off.
“I saw how they were suffering and how they were struggling. And I felt like I needed to do something,” Brandt told Barrymore.
Brandt explained that she initially began selling t-shirts and even held a raffle to raise money for the businesses. Since the pandemic began, she has been able to raise nearly $70,000. She says restaurants are able to use the money to pay employees and for other expenses.
“I think this initiative really opened my eyes to how incredible the community we’ve built through AZFoodie truly is. It has given myself, and those that are participating, the opportunity to connect in a way that is so lacking right now,” Brandt told LIVEKINDLY.
“There are so many people going through hardships, these tips are much more than the money. I feel that it brings light and love to people, some of these people it’s given them that extra hope to keep pushing forward when times have felt so hard,” she added.
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