Facebook group 'Still Serving' helps local restaurants stay in business

click to enlarge Founder of Still Serving Heather Bedor has helped more than 300 local restaurants promote their business to continue serving. - Photo Courtesy Heather Bedor
Photo Courtesy Heather Bedor
Founder of Still Serving Heather Bedor has helped more than 300 local restaurants promote their business to continue serving.

A Facebook page dedicated to locals supporting local restaurants, Still Serving, has amassed nearly 3,000 members since March 18, all in the hopes of attracting patrons to restaurants that haven't given up serving locals and connecting restaurant owners to promote collaboration.

The page's founder Heather Bedor, is a hospitality industry consultant at Starlit Productions, and has helped more than 300 local restaurants continue serving despite the recent coronavirus shutdown.

"We created [Still Serving] just really for [local restaurants], no money to be made from it," Bedor said. "Just to serve as much support for the community as possible"

Bedor individually called restaurants in the Orlando area to check if they were still serving, what their hours were and if they would want to join the page to help themselves and other restaurants in the area. Within 20 minutes after the Facebook page was created, 30 members had already joined. As the group pushes towards 3,000 members, local restaurants have been able to help each other promote their venues and brainstorm how to better attract patrons.

"The purpose of it is to do whatever we can to help, whether it's allow them to post menus or help them with marketing or give them a forum that they can reach out," Bedor said.

"When quarantine started, I really wanted to help and support my friends that own restaurants or workers at restaurants and breweries."

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As a space for restaurants to promote their business to the public and share ideas with other restaurants, marketing director Sarah Horne at Bao's Castle, a joint that opened up in the middle of quarantine on April 1, spoke of Bedor's determination and diligence in supporting local businesses.

"She helped catapult us and our name into the community and it has kind of blown us away, our first week, our sales were kind of insane," Horne noted. "Bedor really helped us start that whole buzz around [our restaurant] and without that I am not sure where we would be."

Horne emphasized how difficult it was for Bao's Castle to open during quarantine, especially as owner Danny Ngo feared a lack of sales. However, the venue has been met with plenty of patrons and sales.

Still Serving also created bingo cards to encourage patrons to visit local venues. Anyone who joins the Facebook page can download the bingo cards, dine at or carry out from the different restaurants featured on the card, and upload their receipt by messaging the group. When a player gets bingo, they win a gift card to one of the restaurants on the card.

Additionally, Still Serving began a relief fund on April 2 for restaurants in need of financial assistance. U.S. Marine Corps veteran and founder of I Know A Guy T-Shirts & More Joe Giannini designed Still Serving's logo and created T-shirts in which all proceeds go towards the relief fund.
click to enlarge The Still Serving logo was created by U.S. Marine veteran and founder of  I Know A Guy T-Shirt & More Joe Giannini. - Photo Courtesy Heather Bedor
Photo Courtesy Heather Bedor
The Still Serving logo was created by U.S. Marine veteran and founder of I Know A Guy T-Shirt & More Joe Giannini.
"What we want to do with this relief fund is we want to have a local opportunity," Bedor stated. "If there was a restaurant that is suffering, and they can't keep their doors open after the quarantine ... Just very specifically to try to help them as much as possible."

Bedor claimed that the she did not want "anyone to feel left out," therefore, the T-shirt design doesn't promote any single restaurant, but rather supports all local venues. To achieve this inclusive vision, Giannini created three different logos – the winning design evokes Florida and eating in Orange County, with utensils and a cocktail umbrella.

Still Serving also includes two other chapters to promote restaurants in the Oviedo and Longwood communities, both of which were founded on April 15.

Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek posted on her Facebook page on April 15 about the need to support the 286 restaurants within the Oviedo city limits and "create a take-out guide showing which of these restaurants are open." That same day, Bedor commented on the thread stating that she has created an Oviedo page and would happily make Sladek an admin.

The Longwood chapter was created by Bedor and friend Kim Ladoczky.

Still Serving is not the only platform through which Bedor has promoted local restaurants though. A partnership with SAK Comedy Lab, the improv venue that has brought their ensemble of actors and comics over to nightly 7 o'clock Facebook live-streams, has helped Still Serving and local restaurants reach a larger audience and hopes to continue.

Bedor has also dedicated her time to Still Playing, a group for "anybody who is in the arts" to promote their brand and artistic work.

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SAK marketing director Dale Smith said that SAK had already been promoting local business with gift cards in the past, but now some live-streams will offer gift cards to audience members to different local restaurants that Bedor recommends.

"She just took that time out of my schedule of me trying to track [local restaurants] down, she just kind of fed them to us [to promote]," Smith said.

Jennifer Bottoms, a friend of Bedor's whom she met three years ago, said Still Serving is something she would expect from Bedor.

"She is very friendly and outgoing, she really cares about Orlando, she loves Orlando and she really cares about the community and connecting people within the community," Bottom said.

In addition to helping restaurants, Bedor has also dedicated her time to Still Playing, which is a group for "anybody who is in the arts" to promote their brand and artistic work.

"If you have a show coming up, if you want to put your live-stream on [the Facebook page], if you have a virtual show, if you have been creating cool new art, it's a place to share," Bedor said.

Bedor explained that the group is still in its early phase, and with only 145 members and having been founded on April 21, she hopes the group will soon see growth. She also hopes to start a Still Playing relief fund for struggling artists, which would amass funds from T-shirts made by different artists.

As the four groups continue attracting new members, Bedor has been going through the process of making Still Serving a non-profit. When she received her stimulus check on April 14, Bedor put all the funds towards filing paperwork for the nonprofit.

Although she stated that it could take up to two years for Still Serving to be filed as a non-profit, Bedor is determined in continuing this work even after the U.S. returns to "normal" circumstances. She also hopes to eventually expand Still Serving into a nationwide nonprofit.

Bedor says that "there could be some devastating blow to the economy again, but if we get our members prepared and we help others prepare others" then Still Serving can continue to serve local venues in whatever ways are needed.

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