Even as some states lift restaurant dining restrictions, business is far from usual. Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops in Omaha, Neb., remains at one-third of normal business. Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers in Los Angeles just reopened patio dining.

Data from the National Restaurant Association show 1 in 6 restaurants have already closed and the next few months are critical for those continuing to operate.

The key to survival? Help from friends and neighbors.

Both staffs at Spencer’s and Amboy received $2,500 in tips from a social media post tagging the business with #RestaurantChallenge. Launched by the Certified Angus Beef brand in February, the challenge unites diners across the country to share their cherished dining experiences and tag their favorite restaurants. Randomly selected diners may earn a $100 gift card to dine again and their posts could earn a big tip for tagged restaurants. Four restaurants will be selected weekly through April 11.

Details are available at http://Challenge.CertifiedAngusBeef.com.

“The restaurant community is a very important part of our brand’s family,” says Tracey Erickson, Certified Angus Beef senior executive vice president of marketing. “If we each do just a little to help, we can keep local businesses alive and it might just create some of that good news everyone’s been craving.”

The brand’s community of family ranchers, distributors, retailers, packers and processors continues to build momentum for supporting restaurants. A 2-minute video calls on consumers and the brand’s partners to join the effort. Restaurants also received resources to share the challenge in their local communities.

“Each #RestaurantChallenge post, restaurant tag, meal order and conversation elevates restaurants and their staffs,” Erickson says. “Each day brings more stories of restaurants and their teams’ dedication to bringing joy to guests, supporting each other and saving favorite places to dine.”

It might seem like a tall order to help restaurants nationwide survive, and nobody can do it alone, she says. But small actions have a way of gaining momentum, the kind that could see restaurants through until their dining rooms are full again.

The winners of the first three weeks of the program include:

Week One

Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers | Los Angeles, California
Named after the slang term for an American-born Filipino kid, Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers in Los Angeles opened in 2020 by Chef Alvin Cailan. Amboy serves unique fare that draws on the chef’s background, his culinary school training and French cuisine. One part restaurant, one part meat shop, customers can choose their steak and have it cooked on site or take it home. Chef Cailan’s famous burger creations can also be procured in the one-stop shop.

Local regulations have kept diners away and the Chinatown restaurant is just beginning to open patio seating for the first time since March of 2020. Today, Amboy has just 20 seats available for guests. Cailan says he looks forward to that number growing. Run by a total staff of six, each received about $400, making the tip meaningful for the team.

Cailan shares that the $2,500 tip for him and his staff couldn’t have come at a better time. “We are so grateful.”

Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops | Omaha, Nebraska
The Omaha steakhouse is finally back to 100% capacity but is only seeing 35% of the business they once had. Since 2010, Glenn Wheeler has been the executive chef at Spencer’s.

“I am just trying to keep the boat afloat around here,” Wheeler says. “Our doors would be closed if it weren’t for our sister steakhouse in Arizona being able to help carry us through these challenging times.”

Without travel and events drawing people to the Nebraska city, the restaurant’s small customer celebrations and weekend business are the only things keeping the doors open.

The $2,500 tip was split among the staff of 18 working to keep the 13-year-old restaurant alive.


Week Two:

Champions Run | Omaha, Nebraska
An off-the-cuff idea for a $5 drive-thru burger night evolved into four neighborhood events for the Omaha-based membership at Champions Run after restrictions made dining in a challenge.

“We had to get creative when the shutdowns started. People wanted to get out of their houses and we wanted to keep cooking for them,” says Chef John Benton of Champions Run.

When the staff couldn’t see the end of the line after the first night, they decided to host more events throughout the summer, adding safe activities. Live music, scavenger hunts and juicy burgers invited families get out of the house safely.

Creative solutions to keep the kitchen busy didn’t stop there. The team branded a fresh butcher shop, created take-home meal kits and featured new menus every week for a month, including a steakhouse week.

As restrictions lighten up and the team prepares to open the golf course for the 2021 season, the staff are grateful for a supportive membership.

“Our members are like friends and family, and to have them back in our dining room means the world to us,” says Ben Lorenzen, creative director at Champions Run.

The fresh ideas earned the team a $2,500 tip through #RestaurantChallenge, thanks to a social media nomination.

South Street Grille | Ashland, Ohio
Delays and setbacks were frequent for Sean and Carly Little as they brought their dream of opening a modern dining spot in their hometown to life. The couple bought the building, started remodeling in November 2019 and opened the restaurant’s doors in December 2020.

“It seemed every hiccup that could have prevented us from opening our doors happened,” says South Street Grille owner Sean Little. “But there was never a fear of not opening our doors, just when.”

Just off the main street in Ashland, the three-story building hosts guests in the lower-level bar and main-level dining room spaces, and will include a large outdoor patio with a live music stage early this summer. Burgers and steaks fill the menu, lunch specials give guests quick options midday and smoked prime rib draws folks in on Friday and Saturday nights.

Sean says the community’s response to the newly opened doors has been nothing short of overwhelming.

With almost 60 people on staff, the family-oriented team was grateful for the $2,500 tip nomination.


Week Three

The City Square Steakhouse | Wooster, Ohio
The City Square Steakhouse is where many in this small town chose to dine out for the first time since lockdowns. It’s a moment worth celebrating and an atmosphere to celebrate in.

Four spaces, including a patio, a bar and two formal dining rooms with fireplaces, invite guests to the white tablecloth establishment in downtown Wooster. Only one red napkin per table, it’s placed at the chair closest to the city’s courthouse. While the food is divine, the service tops off the experience. Staff are quick to share a smile behind their masks and provide recommendations on the menu.  

The #RestaurantChallenge nominations by guests were one way to say “thank you” to 48 team members who kept their carry-out orders hot, glasses filled, served with a smile and helped turn moments into memories at City Square this last year. 

“We do what we can but it’s not been much of a celebratory year,” says Mike Mariola, owner of The City Square Steakhouse. “For the staff, it’s a welcome sense of appreciation for everything they’ve been doing since COVID hit.”

Arizona Handcrafted Fare & Drink Co. | Simpsonville, South Carolina
Alex Briceño’s uncle opened the original Arizona Steakhouse in 1995 and opened the second, Simpsonville, S.C., location in 2000. She recalls creating her own signature Shirley Temple with her cousin in the original location; little did she know her career would be in the family restaurant business.

In 2013, Briceño took ownership of the Simpsonville location and rebranded the restaurant to its new namesake. The establishment serves fresh fare to its community with hand-cut steaks and scratch-made recipes.

Busy by day and night, the team adapted during shutdowns and regulations. Transitioning to to-go meals, the team found new ways to serve guests. Family-style meals and grill-out packages with house seasonings and marinades are still available in the restaurant today, even though in-restaurant dining capacity is increasing.

“The last year has been full of worry, stress and sacrifice for our staff,” says Briceño. “It’s meaningful to them to know that people see that they are working hard and showing up every day to serve and cook.”

Appreciative for the tip nomination through #RestaurantChallenge, Briceño shares it put an “extra pep in the step” of her team. “For my staff, this tip felt like someone finally saw them and all the work they’ve been doing.”

Source: Certified Angus Beef