Drew Barrymore just tipped Phoenix-based vegan restaurant Verdura $5,000.
On a recent episode of The Drew Barrymore Show, the host spoke with award-winning food blogger Diana Brandt, who has found a way to help local restaurants struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brandt, known as AZ Foodie on Instagram, collects donations via Venmo and then uses them to leave generous tips.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, the blogger was able to leave a $1,000 tip for Vendura. After hearing about Brandt’s work, Barrymore surprised her and Verdura’s owner, Julia Chugerman, on the show with a tip of her own.
“Our friends at the plant-based company Field Roast wanted to join in on the tipping, too because Diana has inspired all of us, including them,” Barrymore said. “And we would love to leave a $5,000 tip at your restaurant.”
Chugerman, who was forced to close Verdura three times due to the pandemic, said: “Thank you to Diana’s generosity, for really showing our staff how important it means for us to stay in business, and most importantly, show them our appreciation.”
Helping Struggling Businesses Amid the Pandemic
According to the National Restaurant Association, as of September, nearly 1 in 6 restaurants have been forced to close due to government-mandated shutdowns. As a result, millions of foodservice and restaurant employees have been furloughed or laid off.
“I saw how they were suffering and how they were struggling. And I felt like I needed to do something,” Brandt told Barrymore.
When the pandemic began, Brandt explained that she initially began selling t-shirts and even held a raffle to raise money for the businesses. She was able to raise $46,000, which she distributed amongst 32 local restaurants. She says restaurants are able to use the money to pay employees and for other expenses.
“Diana, how you’re able to raise these funds and the way you’re giving them, you’re such an inspiration, and you really blew our minds,” Barrymore said. “So thank you for allowing us in on the party.”