Ringing in 2021: Valley blogger gifts 3K to restaurant owners, employees in the East Valley

Posted at 10:21 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-01 01:40:57-05

As we close out what's been a difficult year for many, one Valley native wanted to start the new year by delivering some joy to businesses who've struggled in 2020.

“I want to keep supporting the community that we’ve built in any way that I can," said Diana Brandt, who started the effort earlier this year, hoping to help an industry that's suffered due to closures and a slowdown in business.

ABC15 joined Brandt, a popular social media blogger known as "AZFoodie" on her journey Thursday to deliver tips to employees at restaurants across the valley.

"We’ve had such a range of tips because people watch the videos and they just they love what it’s doing for the community," said Brandt. "Especially during this time and they want to be a part of it, they feel very moved by it."

She started asking for donations from followers on social media, and soon, started making the rounds to several small, local restaurants in need of a boost. She then posts unedited videos with reactions to the large tips to her social media pages.

"That’s a lot of people coming together to donate this money each week out of their own pocket," said Brandt. "Some of these people say they’re not making any money either and they’re struggling but they are so inspired and so want to be a part of something positive, they’re willing to give whatever they have each week.”

Thursday, Brandt stopped in as Salut Kitchen Bar was opening up for New Year's Eve, and gleefully handed over one thousand dollars in cash.

"It's been tough; really, really tough," said owner Romain Lauro. " Especially because I just bought this place a year ago so I was doing OK and then COVID appeared and, splat."

Lauro though, eager to give the money to his employees, who've also faced hardships and lower-income due to COVID-19 closures.

"They’re going to be so happy for their family, for everything."

Brandt then ventured into downtown Chandler, to visit Mingle and Graze, a specialty cheese shop, known for creating custom charcuterie boards.

"The staff is going to be so ecstatic for that kind and generous gift," said owner Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon. "Especially during this pandemic when all small businesses are, you know, hanging tight."

Finally, she handed a bartender at Charm Thai in Chandler another thousand-dollar tip.

"I just needed the money to help pay for some medication for my cousin," said Shawn, who opened up about the financial instability he's faced throughout 2020. "I know it will get better, but it’s just something we have to go through like all of us, you know? It doesn’t matter if it’s me or this restaurant or the whole community, anybody that’s in the industry.”

Brandt, hopeful the tips will act as inspiration for the new year.

"I know that it does bring that kind of help and that joy back for them to keep kind of pushing, that extra boost hopefully to make it around that bend.”