In the same spirit of its restaurants, Dewitt decided to create an entirely new concept and house it in the defunct catering venue. Only it would reopen as a spot designed solely to feed furloughed hospitality workers—laid-off restaurant professionals, regardless of employer.
Swim hopped on the phone with CitySquare, a Dallas nonprofit that provides affordable housing, and made arrangements to secure a 501(c)(3) status for “Furlough Kitchen.”
Dewitt donated money, as did some other company leaders. A Front Burner landlord put up $15,000. Over the course of the weekend, with help from his wife, a former PR professional, and two daughters, home from college, they came up a brand image, website, menu, operating hours, and interfaced it all with the charity. By Wednesday, Furlough Kitchen was open for business.
Dewitt, who estimates he’s concepted at least 15 brands over his career, says it typically takes a full year to devise a new restaurant at Front Burner, which also directs Legacy Hall. “This one happened in four days,” he says.
Furlough Kitchen allowed Front Burner to bring back the entire 10-person staff of Vestals Catering, too. They’re all taking a flat hourly fee, regardless of what they made before, and serving up to 1,000 ready-to-eat meals per day to local hospitality workers.
Front Burner bought a bunch of orange traffic cones from Home Depot and set up a make-shift drive-thru lane in front of the restaurant, located at 4318 Eastside Ave. in Dallas (formerly Vestals Catering), where people can pull up for a curbside handoff. Employees give out boxes and wear gloves. Front Burner asks people wear something with their company’s logo on it. But truly, it’s an honor system where nobody is getting turned away, Dewitt says.
As admirable and successful as this has been in the Dallas area, Front Burner is thinking bigger. Dewitt created a Dropbox of sorts with all Furlough Kitchen’s marketing materials. The look, feel, guidebook on how to run it, and so on. Almost, he says, like a franchise. Only this one is free.
The gated Dropbox allows Dewitt to screen interested parties and make sure they’re capable of bringing Furlough Kitchen to life. There’s already another group in the fold.