Majority of US Independent Restaurants Say They Will Close
Without funding. More than 82 percent of independent restaurant operators say they will likely permanently close if U.S. Congress does not quickly replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), according to a new survey. Independent restaurant operators from across the country called on members of the U.S. House Small Business Committee to make restaurant relief a priority during a markup of the budget reconciliation package at an Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) press conference on 9 September. IRC’s new survey also found that 85 percent of restaurant and bar owners did not receive a RRF grant. Without these grants, more than 82 percent of restaurant and bar owners are concerned they will have to close their doors, IRC said in a press release. In addition, 18.3 percent of restaurant owners said their credit scores were reduced below 570 during the pandemic, so they cannot take on more loans. “Hundreds of thousands of neighborhood restaurants and bars are now teetering on the brink of permanent closure,” IRC Executive Director Erika Polmar said.
Will the Holiday Season Ease Restaurants’ Hiring Woes?
Competition for workers remains at an all-time high. The lingering days of summer have flared another labor challenge for restaurants. The industry shed 41,500 jobs in August—the first negative month since January. From the start of 2021 to that turn, food and drink places added 1.03 million jobs, bringing the overall figure to 11.3 million. Despite gains, restaurants remained a million jobs short of pre-COVID-19 levels. Why this trend changed course could be traced to a few factors, including Delta concerns, and the fact the U.S. quit rate returned to all-time highs. Many workers in the private sector left and moved on, a reality happening at a pace not seen in two decades. Could relief be in order? “Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist thinks what we are going to see is those pressures are going to ease somewhat in coming months. “Expanded unemployment has ended. Schools are back in session. You know, the pandemic will be increasingly fading. So, I do think that we’re going to see a lot more people coming back looking for work, and we should see some of those pressures easing.”
The New Era of Restaurant Cleaning and Hygiene
The pandemic has made it clear: restaurant guests demand cleanliness. Hygiene and cleanliness often go hand in hand, but adoption and follow-through with measures like disinfection, handwashing, and hand sanitizer use within commercial facilities were not as consistent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the widespread threat of infection, cleaning was previously more focused on appearance than protecting public health and was not as strategic as it needs to be today. The pandemic has made it clear: restaurant guests demand cleanliness, and this new emphasis is here to stay. Now, restaurant owners and managers can be confident in their readiness against pathogens and reassure guests and employees by committing to cleanliness and effectively communicating their approach to the public. Restaurant managers can consider the strategies below to uphold cleanliness and highlight their restaurant’s commitment to public health and safety, without falling for the trap of “hygiene theater.”
Why the Ghost Kitchen of the Future Could be Vertical
Some providers are shifting to a more fully integrated model. The term “ghost kitchen” encompasses a broad and ever-growing variety of operations. For most, the main selling point is real estate for restaurants that want to grow without investing in brick-and-mortar. Many offer additional services, such as online ordering, marketing and even operations support. But virtually all of them rely on a patchwork of in-house pieces and outside partners to make the whole thing work. That said, the U.S. ghost kitchen industry is still less than a decade old, and far from its final form. “If you look at drive-thrus as a model, by and large, they settled on one version,” said Meredith Sandland, former COO of Kitchen United and co-author of “Delivering the Digital Restaurant,” a book about how technology is changing restaurants. “I would expect that something similar would happen in ghost kitchens, where it would settle in on one or maybe two versions.” One of those versions, she believes, is something resembling ClusterTruck.
How Restaurants Have Innovated
To face the Pandemic. It’s Friday night during a pandemic and you’re in the mood to eat out, so you open up a popular delivery app, pick a trendy looking burger joint and place your order. But here’s the thing, the restaurant you just ordered from doesn’t exist. They have no tables, no storefront, and no waitstaff. In fact, there is no kitchen. Your order went to a “ghost kitchen”— and your food was prepared at a nearby catering shop, or maybe even at the chain restaurant around the corner. Ghost Kitchens, sometimes also called Cloud Kitchens, are just one of many business and technical innovations restaurants have adopted in the last year to survive the economic pressures of the pandemic. According to the National Restaurant Association, industry sales were down $240 billion in 2020 from an expected $899 billion, which is comparable to 2019’s $863 billion in sales. The pressure on businesses to upend longstanding practices has given rise to new restaurant concepts, technologies and organizational structures, hoping to find resilient methods in unpredictable times.
Why Aren’t Restaurant Workers Coming Back?
Here’s what the data shows. While eating and drinking places gained 1.3 million jobs during the first seven months of 2021, the industry is still 1 million jobs short from reaching its pre-pandemic level of 12.3 million, according to the National Restaurant Association. In August, however, the industry lost over 40,000 jobs for the first time this year due to an uptick in coronavirus cases, keeping the labor shortage top of mind. Without enough workers, many restaurants have reduced operating hours and rely on overburdened staff who face stronger diner demand. Many operators continue to pin the labor crisis on higher unemployment benefits offered during the pandemic, but a closer look at several labor reports released in the past few weeks show the situation is much more complicated. The hardest positions to fill are for cooks and line cooks, managers and bartenders.
DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats Sue New York City
Over restaurant fee caps. Delivery service platforms DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats are suing New York City for capping the amounts they can collect in fees from restaurants. In a complaint filed in US District Court late Thursday, the companies argue that the fee caps are government overreach that will harm businesses. Along with monetary damages and a jury trial, the three companies are seeking an injunction to keep New York from enforcing the fee-capping rule that the city made permanent in August. The city put a temporary cap on delivery fees last June to help restaurants that were relying on food deliveries to stay in business while they were closed to in-person dining because of pandemic restrictions. The platforms can’t charge restaurants more than 23 percent per order, which breaks down as 15 percent for delivery, 5 percent for having the restaurant listed on its app, and 3 percent for credit card processing feeds. The delivery platforms have been accused of adding other unclear fees on top of their delivery fees, exceeding the maximum.
Enforcement Actions for NYC COVID Mandates Started Monday
Here’s what you need to know. A precedent-setting New York City mandate requiring all employees and patrons of more than 30 different types of businesses — including restaurants, gyms and performance venues — to show proof they received the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine that took effect last month will now be enforced started Monday, Sept. 13. That means only vaccinated people can eat indoors at a restaurant, be a guest inside a catering hall, workout inside a gym or attend a concert. Patrons and staff will need to provide proof of at least one coronavirus vaccination shot before entering the affected businesses. Acceptable forms of proof are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine cards, the state’s “Excelsior Pass” phone app, and the city’s “COVID Safe” app.
Did You Know?
Most Americans now want vaccine mandates for planes, hotels and restaurants, per Gallup. Nearly two years into a pandemic that shows no end in sight, a majority of Americans now support vaccine mandates for travelers. Most Americans now believe that people should be required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination before getting on a plane, staying at a hotel, dining in a restaurant and attending large events, according to the latest Gallup poll. In the four months between April and August, as the delta variant swept across the U.S., support for travel-related vaccine mandates ticked noticeably upward. More than six in 10 Americans (61%) now support requiring proof of full vaccination before getting on a plane — up from 57% in April 2021. Support for vaccine mandates for hotel guests reached majority status in August, notching up 9 percent from 44% in April to 53% in August.
Restaurant worker of the future needs heightened digital and people skills. The Restaurant Worker of the Future — and even now — is a digitally savvy individual with great people skills, says Tracy Skeans, chief operating officer and chief people officer for restaurant giant Yum Brands In “I think the restaurant job of the future will really exist at sort of the connection point between incredible people skills and the ability to leverage technology,” Skeans said during a CREATE Digital Dive Keynote hosted Thursday by Sam Oches, editorial director and editor in chief for Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. “Your talent in restaurant is going to need to be technically savvy and they’re going to need to be able to still manage the complexity of our restaurants,” she said.
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Owner Wants to Retire – REDUCES PRICE TO SELL.
Turn-key Atlantic City, NJ restaurant/bar; strategically located on strip near hotels and casinos; 3 floors; 1st floor – 100 seat dining + 75 seat bar/lounge; second floor – 100 seat private party room + 30 at bar; third floor – office/residence; on-site parking for 50 cars; owner retiring after 40 years in business; financing available to qualified.
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