“Whatever you need.”
It’s been just over one year since Larry Zogby, owner of RDS, used those three simple words to respond to a client’s request for help. At the time, the COVID-19 pandemic had New York tightly in its grip and everyone was bracing for a statewide lockdown of “nonessential” businesses. Andy Duddleston, managing partner of the Little Beet restaurant, knew that if he didn’t act fast, the lockdown would result in the NYC chain’s food inventory going to waste. So he asked Zogby to help distribute the food to local soup kitchens, churches and nonprofit organizations.
Zogby didn’t realize it then, but his decision to help with this One Random Act of Kindness would snowball into a movement that has stretched out over a year, helping to keep struggling restaurants operating during one of the most challenging times in New York’s history and—to date—providing more than 350,000 meals to frontline workers, the needy and senior citizen shut-ins throughout the NYC area.
This was a pivotal moment in RDS’ history—and a one-year anniversary certainly worth celebrating.
“When I look back on this past year, I can’t believe what has happened,” said Zogby. “That One Random Act of Kindness has had a profound impact on the restaurant community, frontline workers, people in need, the RDS family and me personally. I am totally blown away by how we all came together to help one another. It was like this one small miracle just kept growing and manifesting itself.”
Shortly after the first successful food delivery effort in March 2020, a Little Beet customer donated $30,000 to help feed frontline hospital workers. Once again, Little Beet turned to RDS for help. And, once again, Zogby said:
“Whatever you need.”
Little Beet began making 250 to 500 meals a day and RDS made sure they were delivered to the doctors, nurses and staff at area hospitals.
“We weren’t in the business of delivering hot meals,” Zogby recalled, “but we figured out how to do it efficiently and safely. We did what we had to do to make it work. Today, we’ve become pros at it.”
Soon, RDS began working with other restaurants in addition to Little Beet—and the number of meals being delivered climbed to as many as 25,000 a week. Meanwhile, generous donors helped to keep the momentum going. SL Green Realty, Little Beet’s landlord, donated $1 million toward the effort and formed Food First, a nonprofit organization. In addition to Little Beet, RDS is also delivering meals from other SL Green tenants, including Armani Ristourante, Avere, NY Vintners, Eat Real Tacos, Just Salads, Juice Press, Sushi Ito, Stout and 5 Guys Food.
Zogby pointed out that the effort is not only providing delicious food to hospital workers and others but is also providing paychecks to restaurant employees to support their families. He said he hopes the movement expands to include other landlords that rent to restaurants.
“The word got out, and we kept taking photos of our food deliveries,” Zogby said. “We used the photos on our social media channels to draw attention to our efforts and to raise more funds.”
Zogby didn’t stop there. Inspired by the good things that were happening in the middle of this crisis, he wanted to do even more. So, he announced that RDS would help any struggling or nonprofit business with deliveries—for free. That led to even more businesses asking RDS to help with food deliveries.
And as each new request came in, Zogby made it a point to visit the job sites.
“I knew that everyone was working from home and the logistics of food pickup and delivery vary so much. It is never cut and dried, especially in a pandemic,” he explained. “By going onsite, I was able to review all of the details and advise everyone of the best practices on how to execute everything as efficiently and safely as possible.”
Here are just some of the restaurants, businesses and organizations that RDS has worked with during this yearlong effort:
“This has truly been a community-wide effort, something we can all take great pride in,” Zogby said. ”We helped keep people fed, restaurants open and restaurant workers employed in the middle of a pandemic. And the most incredible thing about this effort is that it hasn’t stopped. It continues to grow. This has transformed my life and the lives of those around me. It’s proven to me that doing the right thing—is always the right thing to do.”