Orli x Big Table: A Shared Mission of Community Upliftment
November 21, 2023
Big Table is an organization dedicated to supporting the diverse and often vulnerable workforce in the hospitality industry by offering assistance and accountability during times of hardship. Beyond immediate aid, the organization’s transformative impact lies in its long-term commitment to relationship-building and fostering resilience.
When Big Table chose to expand to San Diego in 2019, they had a vision for helping to transform the lives of those working in the city’s robust hospitality industry. The organization has since made a profound impact, offering support to more than 3,500 hospitality workers in need.
Orli’s partnership with Big Table is rooted in our shared value of community and a mutual desire to uplift those who make our city thrive. Today, in conversation with City Director of San Diego Big Table Todd Morano, we’re giving you a peek behind the scenes.
What inspired you to bring Big Table to San Diego? Are there any unique stories or experiences that led to this decision?
In 2019, Big Table embarked on a pivotal journey to establish a center in San Diego, a decision influenced by the city’s demographic allure, made up of a diverse population of 300,000 to 400,000. Additionally, the city boasts well-established, year-round restaurant and hospitality sectors, creating a fertile ground for our mission. A significant factor in our decision was the existing foundation of private and industry-based financial support, demonstrating the community’s commitment to collaborative growth.
Since laying down our roots in San Diego, our dedicated team of five has been at the forefront of making a tangible difference. We’ve passionately supported, cared for, and positively transformed the lives of over 3,500 workers within the industry who found themselves in need. Each individual we’ve assisted has a unique and inspiring story, a testament to the resilience and spirit of this community.
With San Diego being home to over 7,000 restaurants and 500 hotels, how does Big Table offer this growing community of hospitality workers assistance?
Big Table operates on a unique referral-based model, which provides immediate support in areas such as housing stability, addiction recovery, job readiness, and health. Referrals, coming from industry managers, co-workers, or family members, prompt our swift response, usually within 24-48 hours, bypassing the need for formal applications or prioritization. Our approach, offering care with no strings attached, has fostered trust within the community, with our outreach largely propelled by word-of-mouth and the strength of personal relationships in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.
Can you explain U20 and how this is a simple way for travelers to get involved with Big Table?
The Unexpected 20 (U20) is a thoughtful gesture where patrons can express gratitude towards service workers like servers, bussers, and housekeepers by giving them a small envelope with a $20 bill. Intended as a bonus beyond the usual tip, it’s a way to brighten someone’s day and acknowledge their hard work. We also encourage patrons to give multiple U20s to a single server, who can then share this token of appreciation with their often unseen colleagues in the kitchen or behind the scenes, offering them an uplifting boost of encouragement. We developed this idea so anyone, anywhere could be part of our mission to support the industry.
Can you walk us through your resource center? From mental health to tax resources, how have these member benefits grown over the years and helped to support our local hospitality workers?
At Big Table, our individualized care approach allows our Care Coordinators to skillfully integrate local and national resources including in-kind partnerships with professionals like doctors and mechanics, to address specific needs. Funding from industry, corporate, and private partners directly supports this care, allowing us to assist our Care Recipients with expenses such as bill payments, counseling, car repairs, and addiction recovery, to name a few.
How did you get connected with Orli La Jolla and become an official philanthropy partner?
We got connected to Orli through a mutual friend who has been a long-time supporter of Big Table. Since then, we have built a strong relationship through our numerous fundraising events.
So we hear there is actually a Big Table…spill the tea!
Yes! We do have an actual Big Table, a grand 45-foot structure seating fifty. It’s the centerpiece of our biannual Industry Dinners, where we treat hospitality and restaurant workers to an elegant six-course meal served to them by managers, business partners, and Big Table volunteers.