Nurses and doctors rarely have the time or resources to stop and eat a meal, with hospital staff filling their shifts treating large numbers of COVID-19 patients all day and night.
Ruby’s Café, an Australian restaurant with locations in SoHo and Murray Hill, has been providing meals for nurses and doctors during this difficult time; for every gift card purchase, they are putting the money toward preparing food for frontline healthcare staff.
Timothy Sykes, owner of Ruby’s, started donating meals in early March when news of the virus began to spread, and support has only increased since restaurants were ordered by the city to cease dine-in service.
“Nurses would literally burst into tears when they saw us come in,” Sykes said in a phone interview. “They simply do not have the time to leave the facility to get food or coffee.”
On top of the gift card allocation, support from roughly $86,200 worth of donations on their GoFundMe page, Ruby’s has been able to continue to pay their chefs and provide over 10,000 meals to hospitals such as NYU Langone, NYC Bellevue, Mount Sinai, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Harlem Hospital. On May 6, Ruby’s Cafe packed 250 lunches for Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, and another 330 breakfasts for the New Jewish Home, a senior services healthcare non-profit, in Manhattan.
“One of my nurses when I left yesterday was in absolute tears seeing her COVID patients passing one after another,” read a gracious text message from hospital staff that Ruby’s Cafe shared. “Today she texted me saying this was the best surprise.”
Since starting back in March, they’ve received product donations from La Colombe Coffee, Oatly, Saratoga Spring Water, and Arizona Iced Tea.
While Sykes is happy to expand the catering side of his restaurants to help hospital staff during COVID-19, the back of his mind is occupied with thoughts of reopening.
“I’m constantly thinking, what will restaurants look like when we reopen?” Sykes said. “Will we have communal items like salt, pepper and water on the table?”
For packed in, quick service restaurants like Ruby’s Café, Sykes says the entire business model will have to change, with take-out and delivery service dominating a larger part of their total revenue.
Ruby’s SoHo location, at 219 Mulberry St., is a very tight space with tables and customers mere inches away from each other.
“We will have to adapt in order to make customers feel safe,” he said. “If they’re talking about tables six feet apart, 15-25% capacity, we’ll probably have something like four tables.”