SBA: Restaurant Revitalization Fund
Relief will start arriving today. Long-awaited federal help for the nation’s restaurants will begin arriving as early as today, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As part of the first round of funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), established by the American Rescue Plan and signed into law by President Joe Biden, more than 16,000 approved applicants will share over $2 billion of relief. “Just one week after launching the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, I am pleased to officially report that the SBA has begun to fund applications and that more than 16,000 restaurants and other food and beverage business owners will get much-needed relief in their hands,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “We know that this help is urgently needed by so many who have suffered disproportionately from this pandemic and have often been unable to access relief.
Business Owners on Hiring Nightmare
Plenty of jobs, but no takers. New Jersey industry leaders, small business owners, and a number of state and local legislators joined the New Jersey Business Coalition’s New Jersey Hiring Crisis virtual town hall today to address severe labor shortages as the state emerges from yearlong COVID-19-related restrictions. “The extended unemployment benefits are just not necessary anymore; for New Jersey to have 7.7% unemployment right now with the demand we’re experiencing is completely illogical and has to change,” said Arnold Kamler, chairman and CEO of Kent International Inc., a bicycle manufacturer with 60 employees in New Jersey. “People are being paid more to stay home than to work. This is not American, it’s not capitalistic.” Many were reacting to Gov. Phil Murphy’s statement last week that he has no plans to discontinue extended unemployment benefits, as some other states have done, calling the worker shortages “temporary” and “a passing reality.
It’s Been Brutal – NJ Restaurants Expect Big Crowds, Few Workers
Here is what’s changed. Mike Jurusz, the owner of Chef Mike’s ABG in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley, is gearing up for what he expects to be a blockbuster summer fueled by customers who have the green light to go out after COVID-19 kept them homebound for more than a year. The restaurant expanded its outdoor patio, bought new tables and chairs, added a bar and signed up more musicians. If only he could find enough people to staff the place. “We’ve been looking now for weeks and we haven’t really had anybody come out at all,” Jurusz said. Restaurants at the Jersey Shore, which hung on for dear life during the pandemic, now are having trouble hiring the workers they need to meet what could be overwhelming demand? Nettie’s House of Spaghetti in Tinton Falls was forced to close for five days last month because it didn’t have enough cooks, owner Tania Calabrese said. It has since reopened with Calabrese’s husband, Chris, helping in the kitchen. But it is continuing to look for two more cooks in a process that has been futile; the business recently spent $1,000 on advertising, but it only got three applicants, none of whom were viable, Calabrese said. “It’s frustrating for the industry,” she said. “All the capacity restrictions are being lifted, but nobody has enough staff to open up. We’re accepting less reservations than we’re allowed to accept because we don’t have the staff. It’s been brutal.”
$275M in Relief for NJ Small Businesses
Impacted by COVID-19. An additional $235 million in funding for small business relief and $40 million in funding for an excluded resident’s fund to assist individuals negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new small business funding, proposed by the Governor’s Office and agreed upon by legislative leadership, will fulfill existing Phase IV small business grant requests made to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), while the new direct cash assistance program will help New Jerseyans in need who have been excluded from previous rounds of COVID-19 relief. Additionally, as part of the small business relief agreement between the Governor’s Office and Legislative leadership, EDA will extend Phase IV and begin accepting applications from businesses that missed the previous small business relief program deadlines. To date, the EDA has distributed more than $250 million in aid to some 55,000 businesses across the state. The breakdown of the $235 million in proposed small business funding is as follows:
- Microbusinesses: $120 million
- Bars and Restaurants: $20 million
- Child Care Facilities: $10 million
- New Businesses and Start-Ups: $25 million
- Sustain and Serve: $10 million
- Other Small Businesses and non-profits: $50 million
Keep Your Outdoor Dining Space Compliant
For guest safety. As people begin venturing out to eat again after a year of lockdowns and restrictions, 75 percent say they are not comfortable with dining indoors. Restaurants and bars continue to creatively serve their customers in outdoor spaces amid concerns about the ongoing pandemic, and many are in the process of re-opening makeshift patios as weather warms. Ensuring adherence to city and state regulations, keeping parking lots and sidewalks safe and obtaining the necessary city permits are keys to a successful outdoor dining season.
- Auditing Your Outdoor Dining Space Before Permit Request
- Repairing Your Space According to City Standards
- Navigating ADA Compliance in Outdoor Spaces
- Creating Signage to Increase Safety
Restaurants Are Back
But are they ignoring America’s Covid weight gain? The year 2020 was brutal for U.S. restaurants, with nearly one in six — over 110,000 establishments – out of business or closed for the long term, and survival being Job One. Yet as the pandemic eases and cities re-open, all of us are cheering our favorite restaurants’ return. But in their efforts to regain customers, many chains are once again pandering to our worst instincts: bringing back their least healthy, highest-calorie menu items. It’s time they adopt a new playbook, one that demonstrates they are not oblivious to the growing number of customers who want healthier options. Weary of cooking at home, consumers are eager to dine out again. However, what awaits them are the same fatty, caloric foods they binged on while quarantining, just served to them by someone else. A recent food industry article highlighted that “oversized protein” items are the rage in the quest for new “signature” menu offerings. Among the more notable newcomers are IHOP’s Bacon Obsession menu, the Candied Bacon Mother Cruncher chicken sandwich at Checkers & Rally’s, and Red Lobster’s “Codzilla,” eight ounces of fried cod spilling out from a brioche bun, that actually beats the Big Mac’s calorie count by 50%.
No Dancing; But Have a Seat at the Bar
NJ nightclubs squeezed by state COVID restrictions. Dancing in New Jersey – it’s complicated. Dancing is allowed at catered indoor events such as proms and weddings beginning Monday, May 10, Gov. Phil Murphy announced. Yet, dancing is not allowed at nightclubs. “When people stand up, we got to tell them to sit down,” said Peter Mantas, entertainment director of the Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park. “It’s like you got to be the fun police and we’re not good at that.” Allowing masked and socially distanced dancing at proms and weddings overlooks the state’s nightclubs, venue owners and managers say. “All these changes aren’t giving us any relief,” said Tom Sueta, general manager of the Headliner in Neptune. “I’ve had calls from people looking to book the main room and they say, we can dance now, right? We’re like, no.”
Restaurants May No Longer Be Restaurants
A reset for an industry long in need of reinvention. No one has yet figured out exactly what a new model might look like. But on a few fronts, consensus is emerging. Menus will be smaller. (Fewer choices means the kitchen needs to stock fewer ingredients and needs less staff.) Menus will be less elaborate. (Even fancy chefs have seen the demand—and profitability—of pizza, burgers, and burritos. Extensive wine lists—and sommeliers—soon may only be found at the high end.) Pre-orders will become a lot more common. (This stops the chef guessing how many people will order the steak versus the chicken and lets him order only what he needs.) Moreover, restaurants may no longer be restaurants, at least as we have traditionally understood them. After a year of intensive experimentation, chefs and restaurateurs have discovered other ways to make money—popups, meal kits, subscription services, even feeding the underserved in their communities. It simply doesn’t make sense to go back to (lousy) business as usual.
Red Bank Restaurants
Plan to reopen at full capacity this month. After more than 14 months of closures and capacity limits, Red Bank restaurants are excited to welcome back patrons in mid-May. On May 19, the 50% capacity limit on indoor dining will be lifted. Restaurants will be able to operate at whatever capacity allows them to continue to ensure a minimum of 6 feet between groups. There will also be no capacity limits on outdoor gatherings, although mask requirements will remain in place. Restaurants were hit hard by the seating restrictions that date back to March 2020 when Murphy prohibited indoor seating. So, the decision to lift capacity limits has been embraced 14 months after seating capacity limits were established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Having the bar back is very big in helping us survive, it will be hard to go to full capacity with the social distancing. However, it is a great relief to start going back to normal. I believe Gov. Murphy made the right call,” said Danny Murphy, owner of Danny’s Steakhouse and Sushi Bar.
Did You Know?
The way wine is served at restaurants is changing. With some restaurants implementing time limits on tables, the way that guests drink at restaurants will have to evolve as will service. Since folks can’t sit at their table for three or four hours, I think more restaurants will gravitate toward the quick and enjoyable glass. Perhaps we’ll see places with smaller and smarter wine lists that also include more budget-friendly bottles to safeguard against being saddled with lots of high-end inventory should another shutdown occur. But this doesn’t mean that wine drinkers today are unadventurous. If anything, what I’ve seen over these past few months is that people have become even more curious about wine. While they may have been a solely Cabernet drinker pre-COVID-19, now they’re more knowledgeable about what they like, and they’re looking for something new and unexpected.
The case for reevaluating how NJ processes unemployment benefits. NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka says the state needs to do more to ensure people who are collecting unemployment benefits are actually looking for work, and that includes creating an online portal for businesses to report those who refuse jobs. Siekerka said extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are incentivizing people to pass on work opportunities. The Department of Labor & Workforce Development should create an online portal for employers to report refusals to work because the current reporting process is antiquated and slow, Siekerka said.
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.