Wednesday, February 20

Our Hearts to JJ's

One face from JJ's - Teri, a long-time bartender in front of the restaurant in April 2011.
Last night's gas explosion and fire at JJ's was one of those crazy instances that had people going, what the hell happened? And very shortly after, what can we do to help? For readers who still need to catch up on the what, check here, here or google it. News coverage was on-going until late last night and details changed regarding who was hurt and missing and who was at fault. JJ's staff checked in through facebook to let people know they were alive. According to twitter and news this morning, one employee is still missing. From what we can gather trying to piece together streams on facebook and twitter, family and friends of Megan Cramer are still desperately searching for her and hoping for the best. Update: according to Fox 4 news, Megan's family has issued a statement confirming her death and request for the family's privacy. Our continued prayers are with her family tonight.

In the midst of this tragedy, the hospitality and service industry has unanimously raised their hands and their voices in support. A friend texted right away asking for my help to plan a benefit. My heart immediately said, of course I want to get involved. My head, and past experience, made me respond, maybe, let me know what you have in mind. From years of organizing fundraisers, here are some notes and observations:

1. Get in touch with the people this affects first. In this case, Jimmy and Dave Frantze and the staff at JJ's. Since this is about them and for them, don't try organizing things without their input. I've seen a lot of self-hype in the process of trying to help others and it cheapens the efforts of all involved.

2. Act fast. There are immediate needs and long-term needs. Both need to be addressed with expediency because life's obligations and responsibilities don't wait, snowball fast and can devastate lives along with livelihoods. Howard Hanna of The Rieger put this on facebook and said it so well, I will share it below:

There have been talks about hiring on JJ's staff as part-timers until the smoke clears literally. Update: The restaurant community is doing not just talking. The following is a list of job postings we have seen shared. We will update this information as often as we can.
  • Michael J Thorne at Nica's 320 has 1 FOH and 1 BOH position available. via Nica's
  • Aaron Confessori at Westport Cafe & Bar/The Boot has a server position available. via Brian Jewell
  • The Farmhouse has room for one or two FOH positions, servers. via The Farmhouse
  • English Renshaw at La Bodega has one line cook position available for 4 shifts per week. via La Bodega
  • Orien B. at Tannin Winebar + Kitchen could pick up a bartender. via Orien
  • Shannon Hawkins Hickey at Lidia's has a spot available on the Lidia's Culinary team. via Lidia's
  • Beau Williams at Manifesto is hiring a server. via Manifesto
  • Patrick Ryan at Port Fonda has positions for 4 full-time cooks and one dishwasher. via Port Fonda
  •  Leigh Huddleston has kitchen and host openings at Anton's Taproom. via Anton's
  • Cheesecake Factory is actively hiring cocktail servers, hosts and line cooks. Call Jackie. via Extra Virgin and Highwood Properties
  • Salty Iguana at 135th Street in Overland Park via Extra Virgin
  • Dave & Busters at The Legends in KCK via Extra Virgin
  • IHOP at The Legends in KCK via Extra Virgin
  • Kona Grill looking for evening line cook, greets and wait staff. Call Darren. via Kristene Thrall and Highwood Properties
  • Louie's Wine Dive will also open up their schedule. via Kristene Thrall
  • Power & Light is hiring for all positions. Open call at McFadden's, next two Mondays from 3-7 pm. via Kathy Denis
  • Chipotle' via Andy Orwig
  • Diego Paulin at Nara says they are hiring. via Nara
  • Providence New American Kitchen hiring for two line cooks, servers and FOH manager. via Brock Schulte
  • NoRTH in Leawood has room for both FOH and BOH. via Justyn Brogan
  • Cascone's has positions available. via Elaina Cascone Riesman
  • Megan Garrelts at bluestem and Rye is looking for people. Contact info in comments below. via Becky de Wit
  • Classic Cup. via Alia Johnson
  • The American has a cook position open. via Debbie Gold
  • Flying Saucer needs servers. via KC Dwyer
  • John Cedric Smith at The Jacobson has openings for BOH, FOH and management. via The Jacobson
  • Barb Rafael says Le Fou Frog is hiring. via Le Fou Frog
  • Gram & Dun has room for a couple of FOH positions. via Bread & Butter Concepts
  • BRGR Kitchen + Bar is looking for servers and a couple of BOH positions. via Bread & Butter Concepts
  • Urban Table needs servers and bussers. via Bread & Butter Concepts
  • Tomfooleries is hiring servers, hosts and a day busser. Call Shawn or Barton. via Highwood Properties
  • The Granfalloon has three server positions available. Contact Tim. via Highwood Properties
  • Remedy Food + Drink is hiring. via Aaron Michaelis
  • P.F. Chang's needs dishwashers and line cooks. Call JR. via Highwood Properties
  • McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant actively hiring servers, hosts and line cooks. Call Cary. via Highwood Properties
  • Ruth's Chris Steakhouse has multiple server assistants and one server. Call Terra. via Highwood Properties
  • Fred P. Ott's has various positions open. Call Joe for details. via Highwood Properties
  • Houston's has positions open. Call Dan between 2-4 to discuss. via Highwood Properties
  • Michael Smith/Extra Virgin looking for a line cook. via Nancy Smith
  • Red Door Grill in Leawood is hiring. via Shannon Kimball
  • Bo Ling's has open positions. Contact via Rebecca
  • Jasper's is hiring for FOH servers and BOH cooks. Contact Via Jasper Mirabile
There is already a JJ's Restaurant Employee Fund set up through Indiegogo. You can find the link and fundraising status here; this fund has been set up by Duane Daugherty and Chef Terry W. Mille but we have no details on how and when those funds will be allocated. If you know someone affected by this tragedy and is in need of help, avoid all the hoops and don't hesitate to write them a check directly.

3. Strike while the iron is hot. A benefit to help JJ's employees needs to happen in one month or less. When the media attention dies down and another news story is in the headlines, you will see just how fickle people can be. If you want to help lead in these efforts, contact Sloane Harper at to volunteer on the planning committee. 

Contact Sloane Harper to help with initial efforts in spearheading a benefit for JJ's.

4. Work together. Events like this often take up to a year to plan. To have a successful event in such a short time will be challenging. Have key people take lead and everyone else, follow quickly and don't muddle the efforts or try to take charge down the road. It's not going to be perfect and won't suit everyone's grand plans, but keep this in mind: there will be many great ideas from many voices so you will need to have laser focus.

5. Iron out the details ASAP.
  • The Basics – Date, venue, and how you want sponsors/volunteers to get involved.
  • Operating Costs – Who will sponsor this until money rolls in?
  • Financial Logistics – Get an accountant and a lawyer on board.
  • Allocating Funds – Which employees will be assisted first? Is this fund for entire staff affected or just physically affected? How do you assess dollar amount each employee receives? Is there additional funding for those who will have long-term health care needs related to the explosion? Who will oversee and administer the funds after all the money is raised?

6. Be cautious! There has been TONS of talk about varying fundraising activities, new facebook pages popping up, etc. Everyone, please be very careful that your message doesn't get diluted by having too many sources. Organize behind the scenes first. Get all your ducks in a row and then share your message. Let Jimmy, Dave and the JJ's family find their bearings first and then follow their lead. When people give you money, you have their TRUST. Do not lose that trust by acting rashly.

We have seen two facebook pages thus far: Friends of JJ's KC and KC Servers for JJ's Relief Fund. The goals are the same but people involved and agendas may differ. It's hard to tell at this point.

7. Long Term. Can these efforts and funds be partially allocated to assist future tragedies in the restaurant community? What about creating an employee fund where people can apply for assistance? 

These are just some of the things that come to me immediately and is only my personal opinion. What are some other things the planning committee should be thinking about? Feel free to leave a comment and share your own advice and experiences. We continue to think of and pray for the entire JJ's family. Along with the rest of the Kansas City restaurant community, we're here to help in any way we can and we are so sorry for the loss of your beloved restaurant.


chef Terry Mille said...

Here is a way to donate to the employees of JJ's in this time of need!

Eric Pearson said...

As for long term assistance to hospitality workers, you may want to contact Rhonda Lyne at Midwest Music Foundation and discuss their efforts to provide emergency assistance to KC area musicians. It sounds like a similar mission.

Becky de Wit said...

Also, Megan Garrelts of bluestem and Rye restaurants says both are looking for people. Contact and

Mike Smith said...

Any employees of JJ's can file for Missouri unemployment insurance benefits while they look for work. If you are interested, you should file a new claim immediately.

Here are a couple of links:

Hope this helps!

Rebecca said...

Bo Lings Chinese Restaurant is hiring for a variety of positions and locations. Please contact Thank you and best wishes to all who were affected!!

j mirabile said...

Jasper's is hiring for FOH servers and BOH cooks. Please email thank you for posting this.