Not even Houston Restaurants Weeks is immune from the lingering economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but a new event in 2022 may help it get back on track.
HRW organizer The Cleverley Stone Foundation announced that the annual charity dining event raised just $933,820 in 2021.
While that will undeniably bring benefits to Houstonians in need — the food bank turns every dollar raised into three meals — it's the event's lowest announced donation total since it raised $800,000 in 2011. By comparison, HRW raised over $2,000,000 in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2019, it raised $1,951,141, according to organizers, which means this year's donation is over $1 million less than two years ago.
Part of the explanation is that HRW allowed restaurants to keep more money for each meal sold to help them recover financially from revenue lost due to pandemic-related disruptions. In prior years, the top level $35 and $49 dinner menus prompted a $5 and $7 donation to the food bank. In 2021, restaurants only contributed $3 or $5. Similarly, the $20 lunch and brunch menus only required a $1 donation instead of the $3 donation in previous years. Organizers tell CultureMap the former amounts will be restored in 2022.
Less clear is how another change may have affected the donation total. Prior to 2020, restaurants made their donations to the food bank directly and reported it to HRW organizers and founder Cleverley Stone.
After Stone died in 2020, her daughter, Katie Stone Cappuccio, established The Cleverley Stone Foundation to continue her mother's legacy of feeding Houstonians in need. Restaurants now contribute to the foundation which then makes a donation to the food bank. It is unclear at this time what difference, if any, exists between the amount raised by the restaurants during the event from diners and the amount the Cleverley Stone Foundation donated to the food bank.
Publicist Melissa Stevens, who co-founded the Cleverley Stone Foundation with Cappuccio, writes in an email that the organization is "committed to providing our donors and the public with complete transparency" regarding its financial information, which will include an audit by an independent third party.
She adds, "It is anticipated that our 2021 financial report will be available in mid-late 2022. While we will publish this report on our website as soon as it is available, the Foundation does not intend to disclose incomplete and unaudited financial information at this time."
Still, HRW is committed to raising more money to benefit the city. Along with the donation total, Cappuccio announced the organization will launch a new event called Eat Drink HTX that will take place from February 15-28, 2022. Designed for more casual restaurants that operate at lower price points that typical HRW establishments, participants in Eat Drink HTX will offer $20 or $25 dinner menus along with $15 lunch and brunch menus.
Like HRW, each meal sold during Eat Drink HTX will prompt a donation of $1-3; proceeds will benefit the Houston Food Bank and Star of Hope, which a local non-profit that supports homeless men, women, and children.
“My mother knew and supported the mission of Star of Hope for many years,” Cappuccio said in a statement. “Scott Arthur, Star of Hope’s director of public relations, was one of her last in-studio radio show guests. We feel the work they do, specifically helping to feed and take care of women and children is so important and empowering.”
A full list of participants is being finalized, but some of them include NoPo Café, Market & Bar, Prego, KP's Kitchen, Osso & Kristalla, Fadi’s, and Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. Interested restaurants may email email@example.com for more details.
Organizers released the top 10 HRW restaurants. They are:
- B&B Butchers: $55,943
- Brennan's of Houston: $22,407
- Eddie V's Prime Seafood - CityCentre: $19,815
- Eddie V's Prime Seafood - Kirby: $17,740
- Traveler's Table: $16,825
- The Annie Café & Bar: $16,620
- Mastro's Steakhouse: $16,320
- Le Colonial: $16,315
- Étoile Cuisine et Bar: $15,201
- Rainbow Lodge: $13,314