- To ease the economic hardship created by coronavirus, the National Restaurant Association called on President Trump and other leaders to enact three categories of protection: targeted financial relief, loans and insurance options for small businesses and tax measures, according to a company release.
- This includes a $145 billion restaurant and food service recovery fund to pay employees and help operations, a $35 billion community development block grant for disaster relief for regions and communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19 and assistance in allowing businesses to defer mortgage, lease, and loan obligations. The association also argues that loan and insurance protections should include $100 billion in federally-backed business interruption insurance to aid long-term restaurant recovery, a $45 billion expansion in affordable federal and conventional loans $130 million in disaster unemployment assistance.
- The restaurant industry faces an estimated $225 billion blow and 5 million to 7 million job losses over the next three months due to closures, social distancing and increasing municipal orders to shelter in place, according to the association.
Restaurants were some of the first businesses to feel the impact of coronavirus, with countless brands choosing to limit their service to off-premise dining or closing completely in an effort to protect employees from exposure. Now, state and municipal mandates are enforcing even more closures.
"We are revising our business model to provide meals in different ways, takeout, delivery, safety-enhanced dine-in, but the majority of our restaurants do not have this capability today. As the restrictions continue, we are facing economic headwinds that will lead many restaurants to shut down operations, lay off workers, and end service in our communities," Sean Kennedy, EVP of Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. "Taken together, these proposals will ensure that restaurants have increased liquidity and access to necessary financing to help the industry and its employees recover."
Along with NRA, chefs and airport restaurateurs are also asking for aid as the situation worsens. The federal government has already addressed the serious financial pressures that restaurants and other businesses face in the wake of COVID-19. On Wednesday, President Trump signed an economic relief bill that included a number of provisions to offset impact of coronavirus. Employees working for an employer that has 500 or fewer workers will be eligible for two weeks of sick leave if they are either quarantined, seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis or preventative care, according to Time.
The battle over whether workers will be paid and able to take time off to cope with the virus has been a contentious one for many restaurants. New York City Chipotle workers walked off the job in early March after alleging that the brand was failing to comply with the city’s paid sick leave law. A broader discussion has started about the policies that many major restaurant chains maintain for sick leave and how these standards leave workers exposed during crises.
Amid rising tensions, a number of brands including Starbucks and McDonald's have already offered special sick leave programs for employees impacted by the virus. Alinea Restaurant Group co-founder Nick Kokonas tweeted on March 15 that every employee was receiving a $1,000 stipend ($500 for temporary employees) after the company announced complete closures of its restaurants. Wolfgang Puck announced weekly paychecks for employees.
Still, an estimated 4 million leisure and hospitality workers are at risk of layoffs in 12 states that have closed bars and restaurants, according to outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. Keeping locations open for off-premise sales may buoy some brands but it will still lead to major sales losses as consumers opt to stay home or face quarantines. Several restaurants have already engaged in layoffs, in some cases totaling 80% of the brand's workforce. If the Federal government bolsters their aid plans for the industry, this could help soften the devastating blow COVID-19 is dealing restaurants.