More than 10 million service workers have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, independent restaurant owners have also struggled. Established by One Fair Wage and in partnership with the CA Labor & Workforce Development agency, High Road Kitchens has been instrumental in the COVID-19 recovery and guided the restaurant industry to commit to new standards of equitable practices while providing jobs and free or reduced meals.

The Work

In our region, 16 restaurants received $5,000 (thanks to the San Diego Foundation) to cover initial start-up costs (e.g. safety precaution changes and packing and distribution supplies). We also offered wage subsidies through the Workforce Partnership’s on-the-job training dollars. 

Restaurant owners made a commitment to ‘high road’ principles that includes higher wages and benefits among additional commitments related to race, ethnicity and gender equity. 

Participating regional restaurants included local favorites such as Common Stock, Del Sur Mexican Cantina, Kensington Café, Metl, Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant, The Rose, Super Cocina, Tajima, Yummy Pho, Bread + Cheese eatery, Low n Slow Cali BBQ, Cloak & Petal and Tahona.


Since its launch in the spring of 2020, dozens of restaurants across 10 US cities have partnered with High Road Kitchens to serve more than 10,700 free meals to those in need. Major support has come from patrons as well–7,920 meals have been donated by customers. 61 employees either avoided lay-offs or were re-hired through High Road Kitchens.  

With the initial $5,000 financial support from The San Diego Foundation as well as Workforce Partnership’s on-the-job training subsidies, restaurants were able to provide food on a sliding scale to paying customers, as well as free meals to low-wage workers, health care workers and first responders. The support allowed restaurants to retain, hire or rehire employees, and provide workers with regular paychecks during very uncertain times. 

High Road Kitchens has successfully safeguarded restaurant worker jobs and has provided subsidies for restaurant owners who have committed to paying a living wage and to following equitable employment practices. Through High Road Kitchens, the service industry has the opportunity to truly reinvent itself as more equitable and sustainable for all stakeholders, and for the long haul. 

Next Steps

With more funding, we can reach more in need. For more information, please contact Angel Stancer, manager of business experience, at or (619) 228-2937.

High Road Kitchens in the news

Amidst pandemic, San Diego restaurants feed frontline workers and commit to job quality

Putting idle restaurants to use by fighting food insecurity and creating a more equitable workplace in California

Public-Philanthropic Effort Aims to Feed the Hungry, Put Restaurant Staff Back to Work

High Road Kitchens is a national program started by One Fair Wage. San Diego County restaurants are supported by the San Diego Workforce Partnership and The San Diego Foundation.