It’s no secret that many hospitality employees who rely on tips to make ends meet have found themselves in precarious situations due to the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects.
The situation inspired two Park City residents, Sam Rubin and Hilary Reiter, to launch the Utah Tip Challenge, a grassroots effort to help hospitality workers through financial challenges that have resulted from the pandemic.
The concept is simple. Individuals and businesses are invited to contribute any amount as often as they wish via Venmo at @utahtipchallenge. Rubin and Reiter then donate the money to restaurant owners and managers who will distribute the money to their staff, according to Rubin.
“We’re not doing this for any recognition,” Rubin said. “It’s truly a matter about giving back to a community who likes to support its residents.”
On Aug. 15, after the first week of collecting donations, Rubin and Reiter distributed $1,000 to the Boneyard Saloon and Wine Dive, and on Aug. 22, they donated similar amounts to two Salt Lake City restaurants — SLC Eatery, and Mr. Shabu, whose owners, incidentally, donated some funds to the Tip Challenge.
“We selected Boneyard first because Jesse Shetler, who owns both the Boneyard and No Name Saloon, gives back to the community,” Rubin said.
Shetler is known for providing free annual Thanksgiving dinners to his staff, and has been donating 100% of his establishments’ gift card sales to employees during the pandemic, Reiter said.
“We specifically picked Boneyard because it’s not on Main Street, and not at Kimball Junction. It’s in between,” she said.
Utah Tip Challenge presents donation to Boneyard Saloon
Rubin created the Utah Tip Challenge after a similar model set up by Lexy Kadey, a TikTok personality and filmmaker who distributes the funds to random people in Nashville.
“Her project grew from a couple hundred dollars one week to more than $45,000 a week before last,” he said. “I saw what was going on in Nashville, and knew how philanthropic the Park City residents are and decided to do something here.”
Rubin and Reiter accept donations of any amount, and have been grateful for the support.
“While we’ve had people donate upwards of $100 at a time, which we are so grateful for, we are happy with anything,” he said. “I mean people can skip a Starbucks cup of coffee and donate the money.”
During the first 24 hours of its third week, the Utah Tip Challenge raised $600, which will be part of the total that will be distributed the weekend of Aug. 28-30, Reiter said.
“It doesn’t take much,” she said. “Those of us who are still gainfully employed at this time are actually saving money these days by not dining out as much as we used to. So, we can give back by just taking a few dollars a month or a week that they are saving from not dining out and give to the Tip Challenge for our hospitality workers.”
In addition, businesses are welcome to get involved as sponsors, and can do so by emailing Reiter at email@example.com.
Rubin and Reiter want to continue the Utah Tip Challenge through the winter, and plan to keep it going as long as it sustains itself.
“We’re two months away from cooler weather,” Reiter said. “All the outdoor dining will go away, and restaurants will return to limited capacity seating. So I think it’s important to continue to raise funds to help their staff members make it through the winter.”
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