“Our lack of marketing prowess met its limit as far as how much we could reach. ... We knew we needed to change things up if we wanted to help more people,” Choe said.
With schools statewide closing campuses due to the coronavirus pandemic, Choe said he and his wife have been forced to partially home-school their children. All of the founding partners of Tso Chinese have elementary school-aged children, Choe said, and the closures have been an eye-opening experience for the restaurateurs.
“It’s no secret teachers are often underappreciated, taken for granted and certainly underpaid,” Choe said. “As a result of this pandemic and our need to home-school children, we realized—now more than ever before—that we really do appreciate how much work and time our teachers spend with our children.”
With the National Parent Teacher Association’s Teacher Appreciation Week running May 4-8, the Tso Chinese team decided to focus their efforts on providing meal relief to the area’s teachers.
Throughout the month of May, Tso Chinese is providing $50 in free food from its restaurants to a total of 1,000 Austin-area teachers through an initiative called 50KForTeachers.
Local teachers can submit a form, beginning at noon daily, on the TsoGiving website with their information for verification. Teachers who fill out the form will then be credited with $50 in digital funds to spend with Tso Chinese.
Choe said the initial response has been so successful that the business has had to cap the number of forms that can be submitted in one day at 40.
“We’re doing this so we can control how many orders are coming in through the kitchen. This will also allow us to spread the initiative throughout the month,” Choe said.
So far, Choe said Tso Chinese has given meal credits to more than 200 teachers. The restaurant will continue distributing credit until it has served 1,000 local educators.
Tso Chinese will continue with charitable meal donations after May concludes through its TsoGiving campaign. According to the company, the community has already donated more than $25,000 to the restaurant’s charitable arm. All of those funds go toward feeding the community, Choe said.
“For every $1 we receive, we’re distributing $3 worth of food,” Choe said. “We’re in a fortuitous position to feed people a lot of food.”
Anyone interested in giving to the TsoGiving campaign can make donations through the restaurant’s Venmo and GoFundMe pages.
Choe said Tso Chinese is now looking into ways to help Austin’s homeless community by providing meals. Tso Chinese is also working to help provide meals to Austin families with children who may depend on schools to provide meals during the day.
“Tso Chinese was born here in Austin and Austin is our home. This is why we feel like we have a real strong connection with the city—we really want to treat the city like they’re members of our family,” Choe said. “We encourage everyone to reach out to us if they need help, and we’ll see how we can help.”