NJ Package of Legislation to Provide $235M
In small business relief. As New Jersey continues to recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Phil Murphy today signed five bills – A5704, A5705, A5706, A5707, and A5709 – which provide additional aid to small businesses that continue to suffer from the economic effects of the pandemic. Together, the bill package provides $235 million to small businesses throughout the state, allowing the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to fulfill all eligible applications submitted during Phase IV of the EDA’s Small Business Emergency Grant Program. “Throughout the past year, we have focused our relief efforts on supporting New Jersey’s small businesses so they can emerge from the pandemic stronger than before,” said Governor Murphy. “This additional funding will help us add to the more than 60,000 small businesses that have received aid to date.” This brings the total to more than $600 Million in Small Business Relief since the start of the Pandemic.
Restaurants ‘Confused, Frustrated’
Small Business Needed Federal Help
Grocery-to-Table is a Challenge
For restaurants in the pandemic. By last summer, Nick Wiseman, a founder of Little Sesame, a small chain of hummus shops in Washington, D.C., had made all the expected “pivots” to save his business. He’d offered delivery, meal kits and pantry items, and worked with local nonprofits to feed the hungry. But with both of his shops in downtown business districts — and no signs that office workers would be returning — he needed something else to keep the business afloat. The obvious solution: selling his hummus in grocery stores. “We have a great brand and a great product,” Mr. Wiseman remembered thinking. “How hard can this be?” As it turns out, it took almost a year for three chefs at Little Sesame, each with experience cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants, to make a hummus that looked and tasted the way they wanted it to, with the necessary shelf life and food safety certifications. Along the way, they created a mini-food laboratory, equipped with a magnetic stirrer (to draw uniform hummus samples) and a pH probe, and became experts at the art of high-pressure pasteurization, which kills bacteria by applying isostatic pressure at levels six times those found at the bottom of the ocean. This month, their hummus finally arrived on the shelves at Whole Foods Market.
DOL Proposes Change to 80/20 Tip Credit Rules
Limiting the amount of non-tip producing work an employee can perform. Under the proposed rule change, an employer can only claim the tip credit when workers do tasks that are part of their tipped job. But if a worker is doing tasks that support “tip-producing work for a substantial amount of time,” defined as more than 20% of all hours worked or 30 straight minutes, that employee is no longer doing a job that’s part of a tipped occupation, the DOL said. “Having considered the dual jobs portion, the Department now believes that the 2020 Tip final rule may fall short of providing the intended clarity and certainty for employers could harm tipped employees and non-tipped employees in industries that employ significant numbers of tipped workers.” Work that directly supports the job of a restaurant server would include folding napkins, preparing silverware and garnishing plates, the DOL said. Sweeping under tables, for example, would only support tipped work if it were done in the dining room, the agency noted.
What You Need to Know Before Criticizing
Women Entrepreneurs Set the Table
For success. A panel of women chef-restaurateurs, all founding members of the industry’s new Let’s Talk Womxn initiative, shared their insights on how other women can achieve success, particularly now as the country rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic. National Restaurant Association President & CEO Tom Bené moderated the panel, which featured Rohini Dey, owner-operator of Vermilion, Chicago; Phoenix’s Charleen Badman of FnB restaurant; Lexington, Ky.’s Ouita Michel of Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants; Anne Quatrano of Atlanta’s Star Provisions restaurants; and Jill Weber of Philadelphia’s Sojourn Philly Restaurant Group. They talked about parity, and about how corporate partners and male counterparts could act as allies. They also addressed the challenges they faced during the pandemic, and what the future looks like for women looking to start and restart their careers. “Women are agents of change in our businesses, homes and communities. If we empower them, we’ll see far-reaching benefits in leadership and in our industry.”
Restaurants Crack Down on No-Shows
Deposits on reservations. Hard hit by the pandemic and now facing labor shortages, restaurants are cracking down on diners who don’t show. Reservation platform OpenTable says it will start tossing four-time offenders off its site, and at lots of places, you’ll need to take out your credit card long before the bill arrives to put down a deposit. If, for instance, you made the reservation at Utopian Tailgate, a rooftop bar in Chicago, you better make sure your friends don’t flake. “We typically charge $10 to $15 per person to hold a reservation,” said Scott Weiner, who co-owns the restaurant and 13 others. He started requiring deposits when in-person dining resumed at limited capacity. Now, cancel a day ahead or take the hit.
Did You Know?
What the post-pandemic worker needs from restaurants. As the summer rush approaches, the labor shortage facing operators remains multifaceted. The summer rush is knocking. Restaurants posted their 12th consecutive week of positive same-store sales growth in the period ending June 6, according to Black Box Intelligence. Although it represented a drop from last week, the fact remains the industry is swinging upward after a nightmarish run. Forty-two states posted positive sales growth during the week. And that should only hike as lagging markets, like New York City and Michigan, lift restrictions. Recent data from the Census Bureau’s retail sales report indicated consumer spending on food service jumped 70 percent year-over-year. New research from Freshwork found 30 percent of Americans plan to splurge on dining out, ahead of travel, shopping, and concerts. While this welcomed narrative has become prevalent in recent weeks, so has the biggest hurdle keeping restaurants from cashing in—labor. Hiring in a tight market is always complex, as restaurants well knew before COVID, yet this is no ordinary tight labor market.
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