New Year, Same Reasons for Restaurant Owners to Give Back

The owners of El Pollo Grill and Cali Comfort BBQ are using loan money to say thanks to ICU workers

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“It’s been a very challenging year, but a very rewarding year,” said Shawn Walchef.

You don’t hear too many small business owners use the terms “rewarding” and “year” together when describing 2020.

“Coronavirus has attacked the heart of hospitality,” admitted Walchef, the owner of Cali Comfort BBQ in Spring Valley.

“I sum up 2020 as a disaster,” agreed Victor Lopez, the owner of three El Pollo Grill restaurants, including one in Chula Vista.

Both men long for the day when they can operate without a protective sheet of clear plastic between themselves and their customers. Both said they have relied on government loans to keep their restaurants going.

“Well, we’re using it on our restaurant,” explained Walchef. “But we’re also using it to do what we do best and that’s give back to the community.”

“Give back.” That’s hard to do for small businesses that struggled for most of 2020. However, Walchef and Lopez teamed-up to use some of their loan money to feed every single Intensive Care Unit staffer at every hospital in San Diego County.

“It’s just another way to say thank you,” said Walchef.

The restaurants are delivering hundreds of meals a week.

“Because I can. It’s that simple,” shrugged Lopez.

Word of their donations spread. One woman generated money through GoFundMe and gave it to the restaurants to buy even more meals. Another person outright donated $1,000 for more meals.

“I mean, that’s a lot of money to give to a restaurant to say, ‘Hey, can you go and continue this act of kindness?’” smiled Walchef. “Really giving back to people, it puts a smile on their faces.”

“It makes me feel happy as well,” said Lopez.

It’s one of the ways the small business owners found reward in a challenging year.

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