Despite Trump’s plan, US restaurants struggle to remain open

Published on
April 20, 2020

Despite a Trump administration plan to gradually reopen restaurants in the United States, many foodservice owners and operators don’t believe they will last through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a new survey, nearly 80 percent of independent restaurant owners said that government stimulus assistance provided in the CARES Act will not prevent the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants from shutting down permanently.

The survey from the James Beard Foundation and the Independent Restaurant Coalition found that only one in five restaurant owners in cities that are shut down are very certain or somewhat certain that they will be able to sustain their businesses until normal operations resume.

The survey of independent restaurants also found that 90 percent of the survey participants had laid off their hourly workforce, as well as nearly 70 percent of their salaried employees.

While the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was meant to help small businesses, many in the seafood and foodservice industries say they did not receive funding before the PPP ran out of funds.

“The data is clear: The Paycheck Protection Program isn’t working as designed for restaurants and Congress needs to fix it,” James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration released its “Opening up America Again” guidance for re-opening businesses across the country, which ultimately leaves the final decisions up to state governors.

Under the first phase of the three-phase plan, restaurants, movie theaters, and large sporting venues would be appropriate to reopen under certain conditions, NBC News reported.

States must first meet certain criteria, including a “downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period" or a "downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)," and be able to demonstrate hospital preparedness.

In phase one, restaurants that re-open have to follow strict physical social distancing protocols.

“That would involve keeping dine-in parties at least six feet apart and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people,” Restaurant Business reported.

Bars would remain closed during phase one.

In the second phase, restaurants can increase capacity to 50 people, and the social distancing measures can be relaxed to “moderate protocols.”

While the National Restaurant Association praised the “Opening up America Again” plan, it is concerned about restaurants’ ability to survive without government funding.

“Re-opening our economy is an important step, and a goal we share with President Trump. Restaurants are already working with federal, state, and local health officials on safety requirements and best practices to be ready when the time is right,” NRA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Sean Kennedy said in a press release.

However, the plans to reopen “should not overshadow important work still needed during the shutdown,” Kennedy said.

“Only about one-half of all restaurants have even been able to offer takeout, drive-through, and delivery services," Kennedy said. “Restaurants need a flexible approach and additional funding from the federal government so they can survive in the near term, get people back to work, and once again resume full service operations."

Photo courtesy of Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock

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