N.J. Restaurants Seek a New Round of Aid
As pandemic struggles continue. Ehren Ryan was one of the lucky ones. His Common Lot restaurant in Millburn was one of the 3,086 New Jersey restaurants, bars and other eating establishments receiving a total of $913.5 million through the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The money helped him retain staff and pay the bills even as business declined due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said. But many others weren’t as fortunate. The restaurant fund ran out of money before another 4,706 New Jersey eating establishments could get federal aid. Ryan said he’s hopeful there will be a new round of restaurant aid. “To be honest, I think it would be great,” he said. “A lot of restaurants missed out.” Legislation in Congress would add another $60 billion to the fund, which earlier provided $913.5 million to 3,086 New Jersey businesses through the Small Business Administration. It comes at a time when restaurant employment dropped in August for the first time since December 2020, according to the industry’s trade group, the National Restaurant Association.
How Restaurants Are Reinventing
To Thrive. Headline after compelling headline, the world’s most beloved restaurant brands are reimagining what it means to be a restaurant. Why? Because they have to. During the pandemic world, reinvention has been table stakes for survival in many industries, but restaurants took a direct hit. Imagine owning your home and suddenly the doors have been locked and you have to find a new way to live there without actually entering the house. That’s what happened to restaurants. Doors closed seemingly overnight, and these company owners had to find new ways to keep their businesses alive, and they had to act fast. With restaurants unable to bring customers in, they found ways to get food out. This meant leaning hard into off-premises channels, take-out, delivery and drive-thru, all of which skyrocketed to satiate the never-ending consumer demand for eating “out,” even when eating out meant no longer eating in(side) the physical restaurant space.
How to Make an Unloved Job More Attractive
Restaurants tinker with wages. Long before the pandemic persuaded so many restaurant employees to abandon the business, Corrinna Stum chafed at the illogic of the pay. She started as a server at age 15, and quickly discovered how stressful it could be to earn only the federal minimum wage for tipped employees (now $2.13 an hour) and hope that tips would make her whole. Her husband, Matt, a cook, was never entitled to a share of diners’ largess. So last spring, when the couple opened Ruby’s West End, a cafe in Portland, Maine, they decided that every aspect of their restaurant would diverge from business as usual. Ms. Stum, 30, spurned pricey subscriptions for reservation and scheduling software, and instead used that money to help pay every member of her small team $12.15 per hour, Maine’s full minimum wage. She also added a 20 percent service charge to every check, to be shared with the kitchen staff, which traditionally doesn’t benefit from tips.
Successes and Struggles in South Jersey
The region was negatively impacted by the pandemic. Atlantic City lost 21,100 jobs in 2020 relative to 2019, contributing to a 16% regional Atlantic City employment base decline, with profoundly adverse impacts for many residents and businesses alike. Noting that roughly half of the jobs were tied to Atlantic City’s casino hotels, Oliver D. Cooke, PhD, and associate professor of economics at Stockton University, comments, “That’s a lot of jobs to make up.” He adds, “One of the big questions that is going to loom over the regional economy as we move out into late 2021, early 2022, is: What happens to staff levels at casinos? [Do] they rebound or not?” In May 2021, Atlantic City’s casino hotels employed a total of 21,993 workers, and since this cannot be compared to May 2020 because the casinos were shuttered at that time due to the pandemic, statistics reveal the casinos had employed 4,457 more workers (a total 26,450 employees) as of February 2020. It’s not entirely an apples-to-apples comparison, however, because official figures for July 2020 to May 2021 include a significant number of individuals on furlough due to COVID-19. that may possibly fuel an Atlantic City casino hotel employment recovery is revealed via recent gaming statistics: The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported June 2021 Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) of $345.7 million, which surpassed a previous $340.5 million record set in July 2011.
Managing Increasing Cyber Risks
In the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry, like others, have had to reinvent themselves since the start of the pandemic. While hoteliers, restaurateurs, and other business owners forged new methods of surviving and thriving during the pandemic, this time unfortunately also brought new attack vectors and vulnerabilities to exploit. Protecting your organization and assets from this complex and rapidly evolving threat is no longer optional and can also be difficult. Cyber-attacks are not relegated to certain hours, operating environments, or location. The hospitality industry is especially vulnerable to cyber risks due to various required brand partner software or networks, influx of customers that could be the attackers, high staff turnover rate, and the multitude of vendors required to run your operation. According to IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach is $3.28 million with an average cost (per each lost or stolen record) of $161.
Inflation, a Labor Crunch and the Delta Variant
Pressure restaurants heading into fall. New data from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business Voices finds food, restaurant and hospitality owners feeling an outsized impact from the Covid pandemic’s continued effects on operations. Nearly 100% have seen an increase in operating costs, with 93% saying inflationary pressures have risen since June, having negative impacts on finances. The data show 79% say workforce challenges have worsened since before the pandemic, compared with 64% in the broader small business community. Restaurants around the county were looking ahead to the economy’s reopening over the last few months, as Covid vaccines became more widespread and pent-up consumer demand was palpable. But headwinds from supply chain disruptions to a labor shortage and rising costs are hitting the industry as the contagious delta variant clouds hopes of a return to normalcy.
DoorDash Rolls Out Alcohol Delivery
To 20 states. DoorDash expanded its marketplace on Monday to include beer, wine and spirits on demand across 20 states and Washington, D.C., as well as Canada and Australia, reaching more than 100 million customers, according to a press release sent to Restaurant Dive. Where legally permissible, customers can toggle to the alcohol tab in DoorDash’s app and order a selection of alcohol, including to-go drinks, from restaurants, grocery stores, local retailers and convenience stores. DoorDash’s alcohol catalog includes 30,000 SKUs. The delivery firm’s move comes after many municipalities allowed restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages and cocktails during the pandemic as a way to boost revenue. As of late May, CNBC reported at least 14 and Washington, D.C. have made alcohol delivery permanent.
Restaurants Turn to Tech Tools
To streamline vaccine requirements, verification. As more restaurants begin to require customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for indoor dining, many are enlisting technology solutions to streamline the process of informing diners and verifying their vaccination status. New York City, New Orleans and San Francisco have all issued mandates that people must provide proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test to enter restaurants and other public spaces, and many individual restaurant operators across the country are creating similar requirements for their own businesses. Some cities and states are rolling out platforms and apps designed to act as vaccine passports to aid restaurants and other establishments in verifying patrons’ vaccination status. The state of New York has a digital vaccine app called Excelsior Pass, and New York City has its own app called NYC Covid Safe. The latter simply allows users to take and store a photo of their vaccine card in the app, while the former — the first vaccine passport app to be issued by the US government — was developed by IBM and will cost the state an estimated $27 million, according to The New York Times.
Did You Know?
Osha says new restaurant safety measures are coming. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) will start drafting additional safety standards for restaurant kitchens next month as part of a new Biden Administration initiative to protect workers from dangerous heat, the White House announced Monday. In the meantime, OSHA intends to make inspections of potentially high-temperature job sites a higher priority when heat indices climb past 80 degrees. Commercial kitchens are mentioned as one of those workplaces. The agency is also focusing on delivery drivers. The announcement raises the likelihood of more near-term inspections of restaurant kitchens whenever outdoor temperature readings should soar. But OSHA indicated that it would work with employers to protect workers more effectively from heatstroke or other heat-related ailments, rather than seeking sanctions or penalties.
Total pandemic relief to NJ workers nears $35b as federal benefits expire. he New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) announced that it has paid nearly $35 billion in Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to 1.6 million claimants from March 2020 through week ending Sept. 4. This includes funds to hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans otherwise ineligible for regular unemployment without the recently expired, emergency unemployment programs established under the federal CARES Act in March 2020 and renewed by the Continued Assistance Act in Dec. 2020 and again by the American Rescue Plan in March. “Enhanced federal unemployment programs were critical to helping our state and the nation mitigate an economic crisis while controlling a public health crisis,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “While we are thankful, the fact that these programs were enacted as temporary emergency measures proves our outdated federal unemployment system is unable to meet the modern needs of our workforce.”
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