COVID-19 Restrictions Eased
On many fronts. Taking cues from neighboring states like New York and Connecticut, Gov. Phil Murphy announced today the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on New Jersey businesses, gatherings and venues, given the state’s significant progress in vaccinations and sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The reopening steps, which will begin May 19, include the lifting of capacity limits in restaurants and retail shops, so long as they adhere to the CDC-based restrictions of six feet of distance between individuals/parties. In addition, starting on May 7, New Jersey will lift the prohibition on indoor bar-side seating as well as buffets and other self-service foods at restaurants. “These are the most aggressive steps we have taken to reopen to date, and we are confident we can do this safely because our numbers have trended decisively in the right direction over the past three weeks, and we have made these decisions based on our public health metrics, and not on politics,” Murphy said..
Restaurant Revitalization Fund Is Open
Here’s how to apply. The RRF was created as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which includes several forms of pandemic relief. The RRF will be administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). It’s aimed at helping restaurants and other eligible businesses continue operations in the face of financial difficulty. Under the program, restaurant owners and other eligible business owners can receive up to $10 million per business, with no more than $5 million awarded per physical location. Grants will not be taxed, and recipients will not be required to repay award money. However, funds must be used to cover eligible expenses on or before March 11, 2023. Any unused funds thereafter must be returned.” The SBA has indicated that applications will be accepted in three ways: (i) through a recognized SBA Restaurant Partner; (ii) directly through the SBA; or (iii) via telephone.
What to Do if Your PPP Loan
Isn’t forgiven. The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, created by the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, in March 2020, has brought much needed relief to the restaurant industry. The SBA will be reviewing millions of loan forgiveness applications in the coming year. The SBA’s decisions from these reviews may be averse to the borrower. Referred to as “a final SBA loan review decision,” these adverse decisions generally find that a borrower was ineligible for a PPP loan in whole or in part and/or spent the loan proceeds on unauthorized uses. Notably, these adverse decisions may even arrive after your lender has issued a full or partial approval decision to the SBA, meaning the SBA may disagree with your lender. What should a borrower do while it is waiting for a “final SBA loan review decision,” and what should it do when it receives such a decision?
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, Phil Villapiano, who opened his first restaurant amid the pandemic.
Can the Restaurant Industry Labor Crisis
Ever be solved? You’ve seen the stats, and they’re not pretty. From March to April of last year, restaurants and bars lost 5.5 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Those jobs are coming back,” said Danielle Wiener-Bronner, a CNN Business writer, in an April story. “Restaurants and bars added about 176,000 jobs in March 2021.” But our industry was still 15%, or about 1.8 million jobs, below the pre-pandemic employment level in March 2021, according to the National Restaurant Association. That’s a serious talent gap. Where will these people come from? There is good news among the bad news relative to staffing: You don’t have to solve the industry’s labor crisis; you just have to solve your own. Let’s explore some creative ways to do just that.
How Are Restaurants Finding Workers?
Here’s a roundup of recruitment ideas. As the economy rebounds from the depths of the pandemic, restaurant operators are finding customers much easier to attract than the employees needed to handle the returning business. Veteran operators lament that staffing is more grueling now than it’s ever been, even with unemployment running at 6%. The reasons are hardly a mystery. Workers displaced by massive layoffs early in the crisis could readily find work in alternate fields that promised more pay, security, safety and flexibility. That’s if they were looking to work at all. Operators say the supplements to standard unemployment benefits eroded the need to get a job. Far less obvious are effective ways of overcoming the resistance to restaurant work. While many would-be hirers say the major challenge, they face is matching the compensation earned by Uber drivers, Amazon warehouse workers, grocery store cashiers and retail workers in general, their appeal efforts extend beyond higher wages. Here’s a collection of tactics operators are using to help their cause.
Restaurant Staffing Crisis Solutions
Experts weigh in. While staffing has always topped the list of restaurant owner/manager pain points, it now seems to be at crisis proportions. And the situation isn’t likely to improve soon as more competition in the battle for talent is anticipated. According to the latest Yelp Economic Average (YEA) report, there were more new businesses openings than at any other period over the last 12 months and business reopenings are at the highest level since the second quarter of 2020. Instead of belaboring the issue, Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine went to the experts for some solutions. “This is no doubt the highest profile issue facing the industry today,” said Robin Gagnon, co-founder of We Sell Restaurants. “Our conversations with restaurant owners across the country confirm they cannot adequately staff their restaurants. March restaurant sale surged 36 percent year-over-year and nearly reached 2019 levels. However, operators are having to resort to short and long-term fixes to address the fact that they cannot find team members.” Gagnon noted short-term solutions including sign-on bonuses and quick pay options. Longer-term predictions include…
N.J. Restaurant Owner Banks on Dining Surge
Offers $15 an hour to recruit workers. Even before Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement Monday that indoor dining capacity limits for restaurants would be lifted later this month, prominent New Jersey restauranteur Tim McLoone was already banking on a big summer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decline. “I think there’s some pent-up demand,” McLoone said. “People want to get out and some people have a little extra money in their pockets.” McLoone said he had planned to gradually increase wages over several months, but made the change immediate for dishwashers, hostesses and food prep workers. In addition, McLoone also bumped up the pay of some employees who were already being paid $15 an hour. This summer, he expects to employ at least double that between full- and part-time workers.
America’s Newest Destination Restaurants
Aren’t where you’d expect them to be. AH, Springtime. The trees are ridiculously colorful, tulips spill out of bushels at the farmers markets, little peas take center stage, and a kaleidoscope of birds is migrating. Chefs are, too. Just as WFH executives were drawn to life in the sticks as the pandemic settled in, many of the country’s notable chefs—facing restaurant closures, indefinite furloughs and notoriously thin profit margins—have heard the call of the country. Specifically, country hotels. Last spring, when April Bloomfield first saw Mayflower Inn & Spa, the newly renovated 58-acre posh compound in Washington, Conn., she took a deep breath. “It looked so bright and airy, and it was exactly where I wanted to be at that moment,” said the chef, best known for the Spotted Pig and the Breslin in New York City. A four-month residency at the Mayflower, an Auberge Resort, that started in fall 2020 has now turned into a long-term, post-Covid gig—with a kitchen about three times as large as any she’s toiled in since she started cooking at 16 in her native England. “It’s nice for me to be able open the back door, step out and look at the colors, listen to the birds, see the sunset,” she said. “It’s a gift.”
Why Restaurants Now, More Than Ever
Will need restaurant critics. Not all restaurant critics are beloved by local restaurateurs, unless they get a rave review, but the importance of coverage and the attendant publicity have always been healthy for the owners and chefs who, without any media attention, might never be known to exist, especially in a big city like Chicago, which has 7,300 restaurants (compared with New York’s 22,000 and Los Angeles County’s 26,000). A good review can alert millions of people to a restaurant’s existence, both in and outside a city, which draws tourists and businesspeople who spend freely at the high and low end. A rave review will pack, even overpower, a restaurant with customers, with requests for tables shutting down websites from overload. And such reviews stick around forever on websites and in ads, often citing a three-star review from five years ago or a Michelin star awarded three years ago. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, restaurant critics are part of the swirl of what makes a restaurant industry work.
Did You Know?
Restaurants face nationwide chicken shortage. Family-owned restaurants around the U.S. are struggling to keep a steady supply of chicken tenders, wings and breasts on their customers’ plates due to a nationwide poultry shortage. Consumer demand for the bird has surged amid the coronavirus, with Americans turning to comfort foods and buying more chicken sandwiches from fast-food restaurants like KFC, McDonald’s and Popeyes. As millions of Americans sat idle during stay-at-home orders last year and ordered chicken meals from local restaurants, poultry producers have been unable to keep pace. Outbreaks of the coronavirus in meat processing plants early on in the pandemic forced many plants to close, putting further strain on the supply chain. Supplies were further constricted in February, when some chicken farms in Texas had to temporarily shut down because of Winter Storm Uri.
What’s behind the push for a fourth stimulus check. The IRS has issued some 161 million payments in the third round of direct stimulus aid, with 2 million people this week in line to receive the $1,400 checks. But some lawmakers are pushing for a fourth round of stimulus aid that would effectively send recurring payments until the pandemic ends. Some lawmakers have picked up the idea. Twenty-one senators — all Democrats — signed a March 30 letter to Mr. Biden in support of recurring stimulus payments, pointing out that the $1,400 payment being distributed by the IRS won’t tide people over for long.
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.