Kristin Murphy, KSL

Draper man starts website to aid restaurants, and other uplifting COVID-19 stories

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Mar. 18, 2020 at 7:34 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — A declaration went into effect Monday night that barred in-dining eating at restaurants in Salt Lake County amid concerns of the spread of a novel coronavirus. It will remain in place through at least mid-April; a similar statewide order was issued Tuesday to last at least two weeks.

When Palmer Krehel found out this was happening, he wanted to find a way to help local restaurants that may struggle for customers as they hunker down in their homes. Many have switched to curbside pickup or takeout orders, but because people still may be skittish during the pandemic the Draper resident quickly went to work creating a website that aggregates links to pages from local restaurants where you can buy gift cards. The entire website was built in about an hour Monday, Krehel said.

"Obviously, a lot of people don’t want to eat out right now, so something people can do is buy gift cards to give these restaurants cash to hold them over with, and people would be able to use their gift cards at future dates," he told KSL.com on Tuesday.

Krehel, himself, is actually a Utah transplant. He moved here from Michigan two years ago. He said his grandfather owned a restaurant in Michigan for more than 50 years and he understands how difficult it might be for Salt Lake restaurants right now. He’s hoping more people will suggest restaurants to add to the website to give visitors more options to help Utah restaurants.

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"I’d like it to be a collaborative kind of community effort," he added. "I’ve only lived in Salt Lake for two years, so I don’t know every single restaurant here as much as some people do. If they know of restaurants that are either closed and have gift cards available online, or merchandise, just ... submit them on there and I will go in and aggregate them at least once a day, just to make it easier for people to browse through and find gift cards and merchandise."

Krehel’s story is one of several little things people are doing to help their community as event cancellations, temporary business closures and public gathering limitations related to COVID-19 have gone into effect over the past week. Here are a few others:

Customer leaves $1,100 tip

On Monday, just before the dine-in ban went into effect, a customer left a $1,100 tip at the Rodizio Grill location at Trolley Square, according to Ashlee Hille, the restaurant's director of marketing.

In an email, Hille explained that the guest told staff he and his wife wanted to dine out one last time before the ban went into effect.

"He said he was overwhelmed with the amazing service, and how the staff was cheerful and fun despite they were most likely going to be losing their jobs the following day. He was so moved, he felt in his heart he & his wife wanted to give $50 to each staff member working," Hille wrote, adding that the total was $1,100 altogether. "Ivan Utrera, Founder of Rodizio Grill, called the guest today to share his deep appreciation for this kind gesture."

Local bakery giving away free bread to customers

Schmidt’s Pastry tweeted Tuesday it would give away two loaves of bread to customers coming in through its locations.

"The idea is that the first loaf will be for you and your family. The second loaf is for you to give to somebody else who might benefit from the loaf. We are a community and we need to take care of one another," employees at the locally owned bakery tweeted. "Steve and Lucy Borg have owned Schmidt's and been active in the community for over 45 years. Their hearts break with what is going on with #COVIDー19 and they want to give back to the community."

They tweeted they plan to offer this service each day until they run out of bread. People can submit donations to "@schmidts-pastrycottage" on Venmo. They say all donations will go toward the free bread initiative.

White ribbons for medical staff

University of Utah Health has started a campaign to support medical staff on the front line who are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They’re hoping people will support the effort by wearing white ribbons.

"Together we can change the course of this pandemic through positivity and by practicing simple hygiene and social distancing," U. Health officials said.

Mitchell, Gobert donate money

You may have seen this already, but both Utah Jazz players who tested positive for COVID-19 have opened up their wallets to help others affected by the new coronavirus one way or another.

Donovan Mitchell partnered with Granite School District to pay for students’ meals during the public school "soft closures" that were enacted amid concerns that COVID-19 could spread.

"As we all navigate the challenges that have arisen with COVID-19, there are many people impacted," Mitchell said in a prepared statement Monday. "My mom’s career in education made me value children and the importance of academics, and I want to make sure that kids can continue to eat a meal while they can’t go to school."

Two days earlier, Rudy Gobert donated $500,000 to support both the employee relief fund at Vivint Smart Home Arena and COVID-related social services relief in Utah, Oklahoma City and within the French health care system.

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