In this week’s episode of Perspectives, brought to you by Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty, we’re joined by Gary Fox, the president of Apron Inc., and Chef Dean Corbett, the owner of Corbett’s, Equus and Jacks. “Apron is a six-year-old, Louisville-based, not-for-profit that provides emergency financial funds to members of the local restaurant community,” Fox explains. So any restauranteur who ends up in a catastrophic situation can apply for bill pay assistance. The group has given out over $150,000 in grants to more than 100 people over the last five years.
As a “top 10 restaurant city”, Fox sees the independent restaurants as “the life blood of Louisville,” so it’s vital that we do our part to support these fine establishments, which occasionally fall on hard times when an unexpected event pops up. For instance, the organization first started when a chef fell and ended up with an emergency room bill he couldn’t pay. Gary Fox and his associates threw a fundraiser to help him keep the restaurant afloat in the meantime. From there, the group continued to meet, bring in more people from the community, and grow the business year after year.
Dean Corbett says there is a misconception that chefs and restaurant owners at fine dining establishments are just rolling in the dough. “You have 2.5-4% profit margin in the fine dining world because the overhead is so much more,” he explains. “The cost of your ingredients is much higher, your staffing is much higher. Many of the upscale restaurants have Open Table. As wonderful as it is, it’s a $1,000 a month.” Of course, let’s not forget infrastructure! Corbett’s cost $4.5 million to build. “We’ll never pay it off in this lifetime,” Chef Corbett admits. So it’s nice that investors are opening their eyes to the financial need in the community.
One young dessert chef found herself pregnant and needed a month of bed rest before the baby was born, but she didn’t know how to subsist without getting paid for that time away. She applied for help and got relief on a couple month’s rent. Gary Fox says seeing that five-year-old soccer playing boy now warms his heart. Many more stories are too sad to repeat.
There are three major fundraisers the public can join. The most well-known fundraiser, Dine Around For Louisville, is coming up on Wednesday, February 8th. There are 35 restaurants participating in the event, which donates a portion of all food profits to Apron Inc. All you, the consumer, have to do is show up and eat! Fox recommends dining out three times that day – for breakfast, lunch and dinner to maximize your contribution. One group of friends rented a limo and hopped around to all the different participants. A few sponsors include Verbena Café, Corbett’s, Equus, Finn’s Southern BBQ, the Fat Lamb, La Chasse, and Louvino. Last year, the event drew $18,000, which is a substantial amount for a relatively small charity.