- Grubhub and The Greg Hill Foundation’s Restaurant Strong Fund partnered to create a $2 million Restaurant Winterization Grant program, an initiative that will provide $10,000 in grants to eligible independent restaurants, according to a press release. Applications will be accepted Monday through Nov. 21 from restaurants in Chicago, New York City, Boston or Philadelphia with five or fewer locations.
- The program is supported by the Grubhub Community Relief Fund, a donor-advised fund created in March by Grubhub to support charitable organizations helping restaurants, drivers and people in need impacted by the pandemic.
- Many businesses and municipalities have stepped up to provide funding to support restaurants seeking to maintain business during the colder months. DoorDash is offering $2 million in funds for winterization across several cities, while Washington, D.C., and Chicago are offering grants, and New York extended its outdoor dining program to be year-round.
Winter will be a pivotal time for local restaurants already struggling to stay open, especially as COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and cities reclose or restrict dining room capacity. Winter could potentially erase 2 million in job gains made in September and August, according to Gusto, or $190 billion in economic activity.
With no signs of any kind of targeted funding forthcoming from Congress, restaurants’ best options will be maintaining a robust off-premise channel and outdoor dining. A Rewards Network survey of 400 restaurants found that half offering outdoor seating or planning to would invest in winterization. But outdoor dining during winter comes with additional costs, with heaters costing hundreds of dollars each and igloos costing thousands.
While outdoor dining will help, especially if restaurants can make it work with the help of grants, the bulk of potential revenue will likely continue to come from off-premise channels during the winter. Off-premise continued to grow during the summer even as transactions declined industrywide, according to data from The NPD Group emailed to Restaurant Dive.
Orders from apps, text messages and online were up 138% in the third quarter compared to the year-ago quarter. Off-premise orders, including carryout, delivery and drive-thru, were up 22% during the quarter while dine-in orders dropped 62%, according to The NPD Group. Despite delivery growing 106% during the quarter, it only represented 9% of off-premise orders. Carryout orders were up 9%, but represented the bulk of orders at 46% and drive-thru, which was up 27%, made up 44% of orders during the quarter.
"While some of the steep transaction and traffic declines experienced at the height of the mandated shelter-at-home and dine-in closures have been recovered, many uncertainties lie ahead for the industry," David Portalatin, NPD Group vice president and food industry advisor, said in a statement. "The continuing pandemic, governmental restrictions, and relief funding are just a few of the uncertainties. But, what we do know for certain is that consumers continue to rely on restaurants and other foodservice outlets to prepare their meals, and there is pent-up demand while we wait for a return to normalcy."