Owner Jamie Myers of Jake’s Grill and Oyster House in Burlington, ON has launched the Employee Relief Fund, leveraging the restaurant’s digital gift card program provided by Ackroo to support his staff and subsidize wages during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  

With government-regulated closures, many retail and hospitality businesses are having to pivot and get active online to meet the demands of the current COVID-19 global crisis. Jamie Myers, owner of Jake’s Grill and Oyster House in Burlington, Ontario, has been “called into action to fight for them” (referring to his staff members) who, after 35 years, help make his business what it is today — “joyful and worthwhile”. This effort will help support almost 50 Jake’s employees who have been laid off on the basis of greater need first. 

Myers came up with an altruistic solution to help his staff during their time of need. He created an Employee Relief Fund to donate 50% of digital gift card sales back to his loyal employees who are suffering financially through this unprecedented time. Myers acknowledges that being in business for over three decades has placed him in a better situation than some, and decided to kick off the campaign by donating $10,000 out of his own pocket to get the ball rolling. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! “I had to show our crew that I’m doing everything I can to help them,” says Myers. He goes on to explain the breakdown: “I figured 50/50 was a fair and decent split. 50% will cover the cost of goods, and we will have a real good launch when we reopen… and the crew will of course benefit from the tremendous outpouring from our friends, family and community. A win, win, win!”

digital gift card program
One of many positive reactions on their Facebook page.

When asked how he came up with this initiative, Myers explains that he “did a lot of surfing on the net to see what other like-minded people were doing. Most people had GoFundMe pages done up by the staff”. He wanted to go in another direction and decided gift cards were “the way to go”. Ackroo Inc, based in Hamilton, ON, is a software company that provides businesses with gift card, loyalty, and payment services. Jake’s Grill and Oyster House has been on Ackroo’s physical gift card program since 2017. Myers reached out to Ackroo at the end of March to start the process of setting up an eGift Program, which would provide him with a custom-branded website portal that hosts the sale of digital gift cards. 

Myers took advantage of Ackroo’s current offer of a free 90-day eGift trial to get his initiative off the ground so that he could avoid adding additional costs during this precarious time. Ackroo helped Myers create a special card design using his friend’s custom artwork to illustrate the message and how it relates to the COVID-19 initiative. Always thinking about his staff, Myers explains the design change was prompted because “I also know the staff will feel much love for all our customers who come in with a Relief Fund card”. Ackroo also helped Myers program a special Thank You message to show on receipt after the purchase of every gift card.

digital gift card program

To advertise the Employee Relief Fund, Myers has added a personal letter of appeal to his customers that pops up on the main page of his website. It explains what he is trying to do and how to take action. He circulated the message to his mailing list of over 5,000 customers and asked that the staff circulate and share on social media as well. The staff efforts alone have now reached over 15,000 views on Facebook! 

Recently, Myers asked Ackroo if the spend amount available through the portal could be increased; this was prompted by a special request from another local organization, the Burlington Teen Tour Band. “It’s a fabulous organization that has benefited thousands of the community’s youth over the years. We raised $6,000 for them during our Turkey Bowl last November. I got an email yesterday from the Director, Rob Bennett, who read about our plea for Relief Fund Gift Card purchases. Rob went on to say to me that since we have been so generous to his organization over the years, it was now their turn to give back, and would we please accept their donation of $6,000!”

This initiative has spread much-needed positive, warm feelings during this difficult time. Myers shared how the Fund has impacted his business and life: “I am overwhelmed by the response, not only in purchases but the emails and texts I am receiving are so amazing and uplifting as well. It just shows how deeply woven into the fabric of the community our restaurant has become. It is humbling and something I’m proud of.”

If you would like to support the Jake’s Grill & Oyster House Employee Relief Fund Program, please visit jakesgrill.ca and click on “purchase a gift card”. 

If you or someone you know could benefit from a digital gift card program right now, please reach out to marketing@ackroo.com