How one restaurateur is serving up community relief
By Malika Bowling
The hospitality industry has arguably been one of the hardest hit industries from the global pandemic. Restaurants already facing tight margins, saw them shrink exponentially. Many restaurants were forced to close for good, not being able to make it much longer than a couple months. One restaurant group in North Fulton, RO Hospitality headed by Ryan Pernice (Coalition Food and Beverage, Table & Main and Osteria Mattone), has continued to fight the fight, and even found a way to help those facing hunger. How were they able to do it?
The public received scattered, inconsistent, and often conflicting guidance from city, state, and federal levels. That made long term planning extremely difficult for businesses, especially restaurants. To compensate, Pernice and his team committed to two week planning cycles. They figured at least staff could commit to something for 14 days.
But Pernice, ever the philanthropist, still wanted to find a way to help those in need. Early on in the pandemic, they transformed Table & Main into a soup kitchen donating meals to the newly food insecure. To date they have fed 9,750 people during this difficult time.
The team accomplished this while making sacrifices of their own. Managers graciously agreed to at least a 25% pay cut, and Pernice reduced his salary by 50%. Two thirds of the employees were laid off in March. Now they are back to nearly 70 percent of pre-march numbers.
Table & Main, which had closed to consolidate the takeout program at Osteria Mattone, was turned into a food shelter, serving an average of 152 meals a day, Tuesday through Sunday. Even their suppliers pitched in, donating literal truckloads of product. There was widespread financial support from the community to make this happen. Additionally, Table & Main recently used its 9th birthday to raise funds to purchase laptops and educational support materials for The Drake House and Children’s Development Academy in Roswell.
“We’re leaner. We’re more disciplined. We know who our friends are. We grew so much closer as a team and to our community. We will continue to hone all those skills so that when COVID is in the past, we’ll be a vastly better organization for it,” says owner, Ryan Pernice.
Pernice even found time for a new side-hustle called www.hospitaliteeshirts.com, selling apparel with curated restaurant industry callouts for industry insiders. It began as a brainstorm idea to make money if they had to shut down again, but he found that having a fun side gig is a useful diversion from the everyday stress of running a restaurant.
“We entrepreneurs put on a brave face, but make no mistake…we were terrified as we sought a way forward for our employees who depend on us, to say nothing of the fear of losing our business. At this point, many of us are simply exhausted. But the fight continues!”
Ryan Pernice has lived in Roswell for 25+ years, graduating from Roswell High School. After receiving a degree in hospitality from Cornell University he moved to New York City to work for acclaimed restaurateur Danny Meyer, before moving home in 2011 to open Table & Main.
Malika Bowling is editor at Roami- licious.com and the author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Atlanta. She’s been featured on HGTV and the HuffingtonPost. She has been a contributing writer to USA Today, Beer Connoisseur and Chowhound. You can find her on social media: Facebook/Twitter @Malik aBowling and on Instagram @roamilicious.