If you walked through the door of a Hot Table restaurant Sunday, you should have been surprised. First, that the place was open. Normally, Hot Table restaurants are closed Sundays.
Second, every dollar customers spent buying panini sandwiches went directly to help feed hungry people as part of Hot Table’s “7th Day Giveback.”
John DeVoie, co-owner and co-founder of the Springfield-based restaurant chain, said one day a year the company opens on Sunday, a day normally reserved for rest, and every dollar that customers spend goes to area food banks.
“We know that there are people out there who are less fortunate than we are,” he said. “So, we said, ‘Hey, let’s pick a day, say Sunday. Let’s open up and let’s give 100% of the sales to local food banks,’” he said.
The proceeds reach various food ventures. Sales from stores in Western Massachusetts go to the Western Mass. Food Bank; sales from stores in Central and Eastern Massachusetts go to the Worcester County Food Bank. And sales in Connecticut benefit the Connecticut Foodshare.
For every dollar the chain took in Sunday, one dollar went back out to help the hungry — with no deductions for labor or supplies. Over the three years the Hot Table 7th Day Giveback has been in place, the company has distributed more than $51,000 to the three food banks.
Cheyenne Burnham, public engagement manager with the Hatfield-based Western Mass. Food Bank, said the money goes a long way toward feeding food-insecure people. All the proceeds purchase food.
“We have had to buy more food because of supply-chain issues at the USDA and with inflation we can’t stretch as much as we have in the past,” Burnham said. “Every dollar we spend buys three meals.”
Burnham said the food bank serves about 95,000 people per month through 172 food pantries across the three counties of the Connecticut River Valley. It always seeks help from the area.
“We are working to get more businesses and industries involved in fundraising, especially in Hampden County where we have the majority of pantries and the most concentrated food insecurity,” she said.
More and more people risk going hungry. At the Worcester County Food Bank, inflation, climbing rents and federal cutbacks in the USDA Food Stamp, or SNAP program, pushed the number of people needing help up by 33% over last year, CEO Jean McMurray said.
“It is really challenging for people with limited resources,” she said. “We are now serving about 12,000 people per week.”
All of the food distributed by the Worcester County Food Bank is donated, but cash contributions are used to offset costs of trucking, handling, storage, freezing and cooling. McMurray said for every dollar spent, four dollars worth of food is passed on to the food insecure.
The Gosiewski family took advantage of the Sunday “Giveback” to eat out at the Hot Table Tower Square location in downtown Springfield. Fred Gosiewski said he and his wife, Joan, and daughter, Bridget, are regulars at the restaurant.
“I saw it advertised, I think on Facebook,” Fred Gosiewski said. “We knew it wasn’t open on Sunday so today we made a special trip.”
DeVoie said the Hot Table employees who work on Giveback Sunday do so voluntarily. If someone has an issue working the one Sunday, he said, they can take the day off. The company’s Sunday closing policy started at the beginning.
“Since we opened our first store in 2007, we decided to set that day aside as a day of rest for the whole staff,” DeVoie said. “We always felt it is important to treat our staff like family and having one day off may seem counterintuitive, but we have found we have a well-rested staff and people who are right-minded and treat our guests in a certain way.”
Hot Table restaurants are located in 10 cities and towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut, with two more locations, West Springfield and Manchester, Connecticut, opening soon.