The Status of the NJEDA Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program
Phase 4. Phase 4 of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program provides grants up to $20,000 to small- and medium- sized businesses and non-profits that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Check your eligibility for Phase 4 grant funding. Interested business owners need to pre-register at programs.njeda.com between Monday, April 19, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. and Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. Pre-registration is not first come, first served, but businesses are encouraged to begin the process as early as possible. In order to receive a Phase 4 grant, your business must be registered to do business in the State of New Jersey with the NJ Division of Taxation. If your business is not recognized by the Division of Taxation, you must provide a valid Business Registration Certificate. You can check your registration status online. Following pre-registration, applications will become available on a rolling basis. Pre-registered applicants will need to return to programs.njeda.com to complete an application based on the following schedule:
- Businesses that did not apply for or were not approved for Phase 3 funding – 9:00 a.m. on May 3, 2021;
- Restaurants and childcare providers – 9:00 a.m. on May 5, 2021;
- Micro businesses (five or fewer FTEs) – 9:00 a.m. on May 10, 2021; and
- All other small businesses – 9:00 a.m. on May 12, 2021.
Everything Restaurants Need to Know
About the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Major help for the hospitality industry is finally within sight, even though that assistance will be too late for too many. Over a year after the pandemic began decimating restaurants across the country — shuttering thousands of venues, putting millions out of work — and killing more than 567,000 people, the U.S. government will finally start disbursing targeted aid to one of the hardest-hit sectors of the U.S. economy. The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, authorized by the March stimulus bill, will soon start taking applications for grants designed to equal a venue’s pandemic losses. What follows is an overview of the fund, including how it will help save certain establishments, including fast-food chains, how it will neglect other venues, such as recently closed restaurants, and how to apply. To be clear: If you run a bar, restaurant, bakery, food truck, or catering outfit in need of help, you should start gathering documentation now and apply the first day you’re eligible. The money will go fast.
Restaurants Face Another Challenge
Lack of workers. Eateries are getting crushed by a shortage of workers both in kitchens and on the floor despite sky high unemployment and a growing vaccination effort. It’s part of the national hiring crisis in many industries. It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen in my 17 years in New York,” said Bernard Collin, a partner in the Upper East Side’s Orsay, La Goulue and Bar Italia. He blamed much of the labor shortfall on “government assistance where people would rather stay home and pocket their cash.” Others blame the difficulty in hiring on lingering COVID-19 fears and last year’s exodus from town of employees who previously worked in restaurants to support their now-paused show business careers. Stephen Starr, who owns nine Manhattan places including giant Buddakan and Clocktower, said, “We had people leave for places like Lansing, Michigan. Our chef at Electric Lemon [at Hudson Yards] moved to Milwaukee, where his wife’s family is.” Without enough staff, “Our people are working like crazy, working tons of overtime. Eventually there will be consequences. People will burn out, people will quit. “So we try clever ways to entice people” to sign on. We’re giving $300 signing bonuses at some places and we may have to expand it.”
Bielat Santore & Company – “Restaurant Rap”
This Week’s “How Ya Doin” Interview Series. As the lock down kept businesses closed, Bielat Santore & Company initiated its “Restaurant Rap” series. That series presented recorded virtual video interviews with local restauranteurs and other industry professionals, many of whom were the firm’s clients, customers, and associates. The interviews focused on the challenges and obstacles business owners were facing during the early stages of the pandemic. Now, a year later, Bielat Santore & Company is checking back with those same professionals and asking…”How Ya Doin?” Watch this week’s featured interview with restauranteur, humanitarian and Chairwoman of the NJ Restaurant Association, Marilyn Schlossbach.
Why Restaurants Will Be Stronger
In the long run. After the shutdown last March, the initial response from restaurants was to get food out to consumers in any way they could. Now, they’ve shifted from reactive mode to making deliberate, long-term changes in how they operate. I believe these changes will make the industry considerably stronger in the long term. Several chains have opened new suburban locations that put them closer to customers, providing faster pick-up and delivery and more convenience. They’re also building smaller locations with multiple drive-through lanes –a more profitable model that requires less space and fewer staff to wait tables. The overarching theme is speed and flexibility: speed to reconfigure, speed to reopen, and speed to move customers in and out. My company helps quick-serve chains, including Panda, Shake Shack and Habit Burger, to hire and manage the contractors who do their cleaning and configuration work, so we have a good view into how they’ve adapted. Here are some of the key changes they’re making for 2021 and beyond.
Restaurants Fought for Covid Survival
With some tech helpers. The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world. Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food. For the past decade, Krystle Mobayeni had been trying to convince them that they needed more. Ms. Mobayeni, a first-generation Iranian-American, started her company, BentoBox, in 2013 as a side job. She wanted to use her graphic design skills to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities. But it was a hard sell. For many, she said, her services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants onboard and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.
Why Restaurants Need More Insight
On the order handoff process. The last year’s surge in off-premises orders came as a welcome life raft for many restaurants. Being able to offer customers’ favorite foods for delivery, takeout and curbside/contactless pickup was a boon for business, but for many operators, there were—and are still—some challenges to work through. One of those challenges? Not having enough visibility when it comes to the order handoff process. Many restaurants use dedicated shelves for storing digital orders for pickup. And due to regulations about capacity, many restaurants simply make customers wait outside for their curbside pickup orders. Neither of these is an ideal solution. By using a shelf or making customers wait, restaurants don’t have any data to help them see how they’re performing, such as how long it takes for customers to get their orders, how long orders are waiting to be picked up (AKA foods’ “dwell time”), or even if the right order is going to the right customer—but when the order is wrong, the restaurant will definitely hear about it.
Restaurants, Delivery Apps Still at Odds
As demand grows. Companies like DoorDash and UberEats helped many restaurants stay in business during lockdowns throughout the pandemic. But it also came at a price. Diners got used to delivery during the pandemic, and the habit may stick long after dining rooms reopen. But restaurants and delivery companies remain uneasy partners, haggling over fees and struggling to make the service profitable for themselves and each other. Some restaurants, fed up with the fees, have since started their own delivery or dropped off the platforms altogether. Delivery companies are trying to keep them in the fold with lower-priced services and relief funds. But they’re not making money either. The economics don’t work out, so the delivery companies have to squeeze someone. They have to squeeze the restaurants, the customers or the people working on these platforms.
Grubhub Settlement Would Give Non-Partner Restaurants More Controls
Over listings. Grubhub would change the way it manages listings for non-partner restaurants as part of a settlement the company filed last week in a class-action lawsuit. The suit filed in May by a Denver restaurant accused the delivery company of putting misleading information on the pages of non-partner restaurants—those with which it doesn’t have an official contract—designed to steer customers to partner operators. The information allegedly included statements that restaurants were closed or not accepting online orders when they in fact were. Grubhub has denied that any of the information on its pages was inaccurate or misleading. But it and the plaintiff, Freshcraft, have agreed in principle to a settlement that would give non-partner businesses more control over their listings and do away with some wording.
Did You Know?
Restaurant and bar operators share the dos and don’ts of outdoor service. For restaurant and bar operators, much of the past year can be boiled down to the axiom: “Just throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.” Be it finding clever methods of pre-packaging cocktails, rethinking what types of food can travel to a guest’s home (and which can’t), discovering how to bootstrap your own delivery service, or reimagining the physical boundaries of your space, each new approach has yielded new learnings. For many operators, this has meant doing something they’ve never done before: Establishing outdoor dining. Sidewalks, driveways and even parking lots have become second dining rooms, bringing a whole new set of lessons, frustrations and welcome surprises.
What new restaurant tipping regulations could mean for the industry. “Tipped workers are among those hardest hit amid the pandemic, and the Wage and Hour Division has made protecting these essential frontline workers a priority,” Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Jessica Looman said in a statement “The proposals we announced today ensure that we consider all of the circumstances in today’s rapidly changing workplace. These essential workers deserve our careful and thoughtful consideration as we craft and implement rules that affect their well-being. A key element will be maintaining positive staff morale through a tip distribution process that is perceived to be fair and even-handed. If any party believes they are not being fairly treated or compensated, the potential ripple effects on a restaurant’s bottom line could be significant. The same can be said for clear, fair treatment of the entire team. Upon implementing the new regulations, restaurants should ensure team meetings are held and their organizational approach is understood by all. Employee engagement should be frequently monitored until the “dust” settles.
Bielat Santore & Company – Restaurant Industry Daily Alerts
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The Little Black Book on Small Business Financing
Bielat Santore & Company has released its newest informative resource for small businesses, especially those within the restaurant and hospitality industry. “The Little Black Book on Small Business Financing” is now available on the company’s Resource Library page and can be read or downloaded from there.