- A National Restaurant Association survey of 4,200 restaurant operators found nearly 50% of restaurants that didn't receive grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund believe it's unlikely they will outlast the pandemic without further relief. About 94% of these operators said an RRF refill would allow them to retain or hire more workers.
- Eighty-eight percent of restaurant operators reported sales declines in on-premise diner demand due to the omicron COVID-19 variant, and 51% have reduced hours as a result, per the survey.
- The NRA also sent a letter to congressional leaders urging a refill of the RRF, which closed to new applicants in May 2021. In December, policymakers shared a $68 billion proposal that would use leftover funds from previous relief packages as well as new funding to support restaurants, but those talks have stalled.
The survey's findings paint a bleak picture of how quickly small gains for the restaurant industry's recovery have been undone by the proliferation of the omicron variant.
More than three quarters of restaurant operators feel business conditions are worse now than three months ago, the survey finds, showing much of the trouble in the industry has been heightened by the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. At least 34% of surveyed operators had to close on days they would normally be open due to a variety of pressures.
"Restaurants are still struggling to keep their doors open amid a surge in coronavirus cases, inflation, a labor shortage, and supply chain delays," Sean Kennedy, the NRA's executive vice president of public affairs, wrote in the association's letter to Congress. "Restaurant recovery is paralyzed and nowhere near complete. Congress must act now to replenish the RRF in the upcoming legislative package to fund the government."
Similar data from the Independent Restaurant Coalition released earlier this month finds many independent restaurants have had to take on exorbitant debts to remain open. Many of these operators also face the possibility of eviction.
Both industry groups have called on Congress to make more restaurant funds available through the RRF, which closed to applications less than a month after it opened. At that time, industry groups said the fund was too small to prevent closures and job losses, and applicants requested more than twice the ammount of money allocated to the program.