FreshDirect has begun carrying a selection of prepared meals under a partnership with caterer and on-site dining management firm Restaurant Associates.
The New York-based online grocer said Monday that the alliance expands its offerings in the prepared food category, allowing the company to serve more customers with ready-to-eat meals that only require heating. At the same time, the initiative provides employment for Restaurant Associates cooks displaced by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many restaurant and foodservice businesses to temporarily shut down and lay off workers.
“The devastation this health pandemic is causing across the New York restaurant industry hits close to home, as I started my career in restaurants, as a cook,” FreshDirect co-founder and CEO David McInerney said in a statement. “By partnering with Restaurant Associates, we have the opportunity to bring some of their employees back to work, while offering our customers great meal solutions.”
FreshDirect will offer the meals, sold under the RA Kitchen banner, in a rotating menu. Current selections include RA Kitchen eggplant parmesan ($15.99), penne pasta with sausage Bolognese ($17.99), beef meatballs and marinara sauce ($15.99), and chicken and vegetable soup ($9.99).
“Restaurant Associates is thrilled to partner with another longstanding NYC company, FreshDirect, to provide mission-driven ready-to-heat meals,” commented Restaurant Associates President Ed Brown. “For us, this is a win-win-win partnership, where we get to put our teams back to work, provide our community with comforting and delicious food, all the while supporting the food insecure.”
For each meal purchased, FreshDirect and Restaurant Associates will donate a meal to New Yorkers in need through New York Common Pantry, New York City’s largest food pantry, which distributes fresh produce and groceries to individuals and families.
“Their mission is more vital than ever as we anticipate the rise of unemployment, which will lead to even more people facing uncertainty and worrying about where their next meal will come from. No one should face that fear,” McInerney added.
Earlier this year, in February, FreshDirect launched a program that enabled customers to make point-of-sale donations to NY Common Pantry. Over the last two months, customers donated more than $340,000 to the food pantry. And in March, FreshDirect donated thousands of meals, deployed trucks and furnished teams of employee volunteers to help with the picking, packing and delivery of fresh food to NY Common Pantry centers in East Harlem and the Bronx, which had a shortage of volunteers due to COVID-19.
“We are grateful for the continued support of FreshDirect and Restaurant Associates, and this new combined initiative,” stated Stephen Grimaldi, executive director of NY Common Pantry. “The consequences of COVID-19 on NY Common Pantry and its exacerbating the already existing crisis of food insecurity in NYC has just begun. The number of new registrants at our two pantry locations is alarming. With unemployment skyrocketing, we see demand escalating even further. Every donation right now is critical.”
According to a new national survey by the National Restaurant Association, the entire restaurant industry has lost two-thirds of its workforce, or more than 8 million employees, because of closures during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey of 6,500 restaurants nationwide estimated that the sector lost $30 billion in March and is on track to lose $50 billion in April and over $240 billion by the end of the year.
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