A Franklin-based, national nonprofit that supports the families of food-industry employees is launching a campaign to raise awareness about these families' needs amid the pandemic economy.

Children of Restaurant Employees, or CORE, announced Monday its annual Serving Up Hope campaign to spotlight food and beverage employees and encourage brands of all kinds to join them in celebrating their hard work and dedication nationwide. The campaign accounts for the remainder of November and specifically aims to provide financial assistance to the service industry’s food-sector workers with children.

“Now, more than ever, is a great time to honor these valuable food industry employees who are the cornerstone of our communities,” said Sheila Bennett, CORE’s executive director. “With 83 percent of CORE grants going to families due to a medical crisis, this campaign truly aims to serve up hope for families, and we urgently want to help members of our industry who dedicate their time to serve others.”

This week begins efforts on the parts of restaurants nationwide to spotlight their own employees and help raise awareness for CORE’s objective. A variety of fundraising ventures and direct donations are expected to galvanize consumers in support of those who serve them. Those direct donations, submitted here, come from general consumers and contribute to the grants that the 501(c)3 has provided to over 1,500 families since 2013 across all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, participating restaurants — coordinating their efforts through the organization’s Corporate Partnership Director Gretchen James at [email protected] — host fundraisers that allocate funds toward CORE. CORE encourages consumers to visit their website not only to learn more about the organization but also to find participating restaurants and even apply for relief.

This comes less than a week after Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group released a report on the industry’s stress points from its restaurant finance arm. The New York subsidiary of the same Tokyo conglomerate whose North American automotive headquarters is now an anchor tenant of the rapidly blossoming McEwen Northside development in Franklin reported rising commodity prices, workforce shortages and a cost inflation for the attraction of labor in a competitive food service market. They predicted continued margin contraction industry-wide and, as a result, less mergers and acquisitions in Q1 2022.

“Despite strong sales, most restaurant companies have seen their margins erode because of higher food, fuel, labor and transportation costs,” said Nick Cole, Mitsubishi UFG’s head of restaurant finance. “Additionally, they face increasing difficulty in hiring staff amid persistent labor shortages, which will pose a financial burden as restaurant companies try to draw new workers and retain existing ones in a labor market that is demanding higher wages and being more selective in choosing employers.”

They predicted lower margins to put the breaks on merger-and-acquisition volume to start the new year based on the logic that M&A activity requires a banking system replete with significant, liquid capital and cash flow. The latter is reportedly lacking, so price acquirers are expected to be much less willing to pay for liquidity according to Cole and his team at Mitsubishi UFG.

Relatedly, the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference 2021 hosted this week in Las Vegas fielded a panel Monday on which Fred LeFranc, CEO of Results Thru Strategy, claimed now is the perfect time for restaurants to be raising menu prices en masse and added that restaurants with higher prices on their delivery menus than on their actual menus are losing money.

“CORE continues to be a beacon of hope since medical crises and natural disasters do not stop during a pandemic,” Bennett added in a press release promoting the campaign. “CORE is here to serve up hope to restaurant families when life does not go as planned and they face a qualifying event.”

Founded by service industry veterans, CORE grants target food-industry workers with children particularly when a working parent or their child endures death, adverse diagnoses, illness injury or the effects of a natural disaster.