#EatForCLE: New t-shirts allow diners to show their support for local restaurants

Cleveland-area restaurants and bars may be back open after the coronavirus shutdown, but Jackie Bebenroth, principal of the brand strategy firm Muse and champion of the #EatForCLE campaign, knows the struggles the industry is still experiencing.


In April, Bebenroth and Garage Creative Studio launched #EatForCLE to raise awareness to the fact that many local establishments might have to close permanently because of the pandemic.


#EatForCLE tee“Today's restaurant operators are struggling with an uncertain future as COVID-19 cases rise and regulations shift,” says Bebenroth. “Even now, it's tough to make a living by serving a dining room at half capacity.”


Even though many are now open again, Bebenroth says local restaurants still need Cleveland’s support.


“There's also real concern that new regulations could shut these businesses down again as they have out West,” she says. “Imagine if you spent thousands of dollars to stock the coolers and bar inventory to reopen—all that revenue would be lost.”


So, Bebenroth is ramping up the #EatForCLE campaign with a new way to support local eateries—with custom graphic t-shirts reading “#EatForCLE: Support Local Foods.”


The shirts were designed by Muse creative director Kristen Pokorny and printed by Jakprints. MINOR'S brand, based in Ohio City and a division of Nestlé Professional, stepped forward to sponsor the creation of 300 shirts.


“Nestlé contacted us and said they were really impressed with the #EatForCLE video, and they wanted to take it up to the next level,” recalls Bebenroth. “They asked, ‘what can we do?’”


MINOR'S will donate the shirts to participating local restaurants that can sell the shirts for a small profit. Bebenroth says she is suggesting they sell the shirts for $25.


Nestlé says the Minor’s brand originated in Cleveland and the company is committed to the Northeast Ohio community and its foodservice industry.

“When the pandemic hit our city and impacted our industry so severely, we knew we wanted to help local restaurants to thrive again,” says MINOR'S business leader Kristin Sanchez. “We can do this as workers and residents in Northeast Ohio by dining out, ordering carryout and now, by buying #EatForCLE shirts.”


Since the pandemic hit, the MINOR'S and Nestlé Professional have donated products, supported front line workers, and worked with restaurant operators to help them shift their operations to carryout.


“Sponsoring these shirts is an easy way for restaurants to gain back some lost income,” explains Sanchez. “All of the money raised from selling these shirts stays with the location. We’re excited to be able to help.


The shirts will be available in early August at the Flying Fig, Zhug, Market Garden Brewery and when ordering from the Love Local Collective.


Other participating restaurants will be announced in the coming weeks.


“We hope these t-shirts will help spark conversations about the latest local takeout or a clean, safe dining experience so that people will continue to spread the word about supporting their local, independent restaurants,” says Bebenroth. “These operators need your dollars now more than ever before.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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