LEHI — On Saturday, March 21, Qualtrics CEO and co-founder Ryan Smith purchased 50 meals from the Bombay House. The next Monday, he bought 50 more from J Dawgs. The next day, it was 50 from Bam Bam’s Barbecue, then Magleby’s Fresh, then Cubby’s and on and on it went.
Since that day in March, Smith has been buying 50 meals from a different local restaurant each night, six nights a week, and then donating them. The gesture has helped struggling restaurants stay afloat during a rough time and has provided some relief to people in need.
Justin Hier got a message from a friend saying he was on Smith's list. The owner of the freshly opened restaurant Porky's Kauai didn’t really know what that meant. He was then directed to Smith’s Twitter account where his restaurant was named as one of the selections for the week, but the confusion was still there. What exactly did that mean?
He then got a call from Smith’s assistant, letting him know they planned on purchasing 50 meals from Porky's Kauai.
“I just said, ‘Holy!’” Hier said. “Ever since that time to the time even till today, Qualtrics and Ryan Smith, they've all been an absolute blessing just with some of the stuff — not only purchasing the 50 meals but also telling their employees about it and the people that follow them on social media and all of that kind of stuff. So we've been very fortunate to have been involved with the whole Qualtrics crew.”
Since then, Hier has heard from plenty of customers that say they found out about Porky's Kauai only after seeing Smith chose them.
“It’s very neat to see a guy like that actually giving back and not just: 'here take my money.' But he's actually giving it to a local business but also providing those meals for those that were out of work,” Hier said. “I think when we did it, it was for a parks and recreation crew that was out of a job.”
Robert Vernon, the CEO of Provo City Housing Authority, helps manage numerous elderly facilities and complexes for the homeless. In all, Vernon says they house around 300 seniors and about 60 formerly chronic homeless people. Smith's donations have helped feed all of them.
“I think the people that are the beneficiaries of this are extremely grateful,” Vernon said. “And it's given us a chance to interact with the people when we probably wouldn't have otherwise. Because we deliver the meals to their door and we've been passing out masks and toilet paper at the same time.”
Vernon said that many of the complexes are on the second go-around of receiving food, with Smith’s donations to the group reaching double figures.
“It's just amazing that Ryan's been able to do that and support the local restaurants,” Vernon said. “It is a really neat thing what he's doing.”
The food has also gone to the Ronald McDonald House, the House of Hope, and the Men's Resource Center among many other places — as well as some individual families.
Cecilia Nahimana is a single mother of a refugee family that fled to America after her husband was killed in their home country. She has seven kids at home; making a pandemic especially difficult. She got some relief from a nice donation.
“When I got the meal, I shared with some friends and family, and get some to keep for the next for my kids,” she said. “It was very very wonderful. I was so happy. They helped me a lot.”
Smith has said that he’ll continue purchasing and donating until “this thing is over.”