Durham restaurant partnership feeding families in need during the pandemic
Posted February 16, 2021 6:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2021 6:26 a.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — In March 2020, COVID-19 related shutdowns caught most every restaurant by surprise, including downtown Durham’s Beyu Caffe.
"It was devastating," said owner Dorian Bolden. "You’re going from hustling and bustling to, you know, zero."
When Bolden began his business 11 years ago, Beyu quickly became a place where customers could get a cup of coffee, a bite to eat or just hang out.
"We’ve always been known as downtown Durham’s living room and the hang out spot," said Bolden, adding Beyu wasn’t a traditional restaurant. "It wasn’t easy for us necessarily to pivot in the same way that other restaurants did," he explained.
Other restaurants bounced back with pick-up and delivery orders. Bolden survived through a partnership with a few other restaurants working together with the non-profit EAT North Carolina. "It just reminded me of the fundamentals of the business. It is to serve," he said. "You know, money is the by-product."
With support through Durham Public Schools and community organizations, Bolden’s staff shifted to packaging what he calls "batch meals." They are stored in refrigerated trailers and delivered to those most affected economically by the pandemic.
Meals vary, but most contain a starch, protein and vegetable. On one particular day, Bolden’s staff lined up large aluminum containers and filled them with pasta covered with tomato sauce along with chunks of chicken and green peas. Each package could easily feed a family of four.
For Bolden’s work family, preparing the meals is a means of survival. "This had always been about how do we keep us employed. That’s jobs. And in doing so, how do we first provide jobs then how do we feed our community," he explained.
He hopes to keep doing both for as long as necessary.
Bolden said he’s always looking for the next opportunity "that we can try to pivot while we wait for the vaccines to roll out and life gets back to normal, somewhat."