At least $120 billion in supplements from the federal government are needed to help revitalize the restaurant industry, according to the Missouri Restaurant Association.
The group, in tandem with the National Restaurant Association, urged Congress to consider the creation of a $120 billion recovery and revitalization fund for independent restaurant owners. The fund would provide entities owning 20 or fewer restaurants with grants up to $10 million from the Treasury Department to be used for payroll, rent, supplies, and other equipment.
The relief fund would be part of the “Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive” (RESTAURANTS) Act proposed in the U.S. Senate earlier this month. The bill is awaiting consideration by the Senate Committee on Finance.
The act was the first item on the national association’s list of policy and legislative priorities sent to Congress for consideration earlier this month for the revitalization of the restaurant industry in the face of the continuing economic impact of COVID-19.
Missouri Restuarant Association CEO Bob Bonney said these “short-term solutions” would help ensure the industry’s health going forward.
“In order to survive the long-term, you’ve got to get through the short-term,” Bonney told The Missouri Times. “We employ a lot of people; we’re the second-largest private-sector industry in America and in the state as well. The lowest income percent in comparison to gross in the state in any industry is the casual dining restaurant, and with all the disruption in business this year, that’s why we have to survive the short term.”
The list, known as the Blueprint for Restaurant Survival, detailed three primary focus areas the industry asked Congress to consider: providing short-term relief to restart the industry, ensuring the stability of the food chain from farm to table, and helping restaurants support at-risk communities.
Other provisions in the blueprint include other programs such as the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) as well as a second round of funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — the first of which was released in April. Bonney said these actions would benefit restaurants the most in terms of recovery.
“Generally, your business model is set long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19,” he said. “You had your bank loans, your finances set, your building leased or built, all of that was set before this happened. Restaurants usually do around 4 percent with full occupancy. With all the expenses they have to pay for, at 50 percent occupancy depending on where you are located, it’s nearly impossible to make that up, so it’s important that Congress look at this plan and see what they can do.”
Other asks of the National Restaurant Association included prioritizing access to COVID-19 testing to workers in the agricultural supply chain, enacting payroll tax relief for essential workers, and increasing access to meals for low-income consumers.
Bonney stressed that the industry was seeing its biggest hit as the summer months go on, especially in tourist spots such as the Lake of the Ozarks and Branson areas.
“Even now that there aren’t official restrictions in many parts of the state there’s still a significant portion of the population that’s just not ready to eat in a dining room,” he said. “Summer is usually the most profitable time for many restaurants, especially in a vacation or resort area, and those places are struggling.”
A recent statement on the blueprint from Sean Kennedy, the National Restuarant Association’s executive vice president of public affairs, said about 100,000 restaurants shut down nationwide during the first two weeks of July.