Michael Lennox is the Founder and CEO of Electric Hospitality and ATLFAMILYMEAL.
Electric Hospitality consists of three successful restaurant brands in Atlanta, Georgia. With a staff of 125, and two new restaurants ready to launch in two new and exciting markets, COVID and March 16, 2020 — or what the restaurant industry in Atlanta calls black Monday — hit. And everything changed.
With the temporary closure of his restaurants, he took action the very next day, and founded ATLFAMILYMEAL with the mission to feed, nourish, and support hospitality workers experiencing food insecurity and joblessness.
The initiative brings together a community of local chefs, restaurant owners, hospitality workers, and business/non-profit leaders to purchase, prepare, and deliver free meals to hospitality workers in need across the metro Atlanta area. Since launching, the organization has delivered nearly 100,000 meals to unemployed hospitality workers.
With no one being paid and money running out, in August, ATLFAMILYMEAL received a donation of $2 million from a local donor in honor of two Atlanta restaurant servers. This generous donation will enable the organization to continue supporting hospitality workers in Atlanta, grow its team, and add new initiatives in the months and years ahead.
Now, let's hack…
Highlights from the interview
- [07:02]: Michael discusses the balance, as a founder, between being an operator and being a visionary. In the restaurant business, it's valuable to be a “Swiss army knife,” and be able to handle all kinds of tasks involved in the running of the business — from front and back of house activities to marketing and design — in order to ensure the best possible experience for guests.
- [14:23]: Michael explains how his restaurants have adapted to the COVID-19 crisis. Fortunately, he hasn't had to close any of them down permanently. Like most Atlanta businesses, they closed up temporarily in March 2020, though two have reopened, and the third will reopen soon (as of September 2020). Though sales are down overall, they've been trending upward over time since the restaurants reopened.
- [21:02]: Michael decided to start his nonprofit, ATLFAMILYMEAL, as a response to the temporary or permanent unemployment of over 300,000 restaurant and hospitality industry workers in Atlanta due to COVID-19. Many of these workers already live paycheck to paycheck, making them susceptible to financial hardships during the shutdown and resulting furloughs and layoffs. He reached out to colleagues in the local restaurant industry and got help from a friend in the tech industry to build an online platform.
- [32:17]: In the long term, Michael has additional goals for continuing to develop and scale ATLFAMILYMEAL. He hopes to eventually create a brick and mortar space for it that can serve as a community resource. He'd also like to eventually incorporate a catering component that would help fund ATLFAMILYMEAL's charity work.
Resources and links from the episode
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