Murphy Not Likely to Expand Indoor Dining Capacity This Week
Private indoor gatherings causing the most outbreaks. With coronavirus cases on the rise in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he is not likely to increase the state’s indoor capacity this week. “My guess is not at this point, and I don’t say that with any amount of joy,” Murphy said on News 12 New Jersey’s Ask the Governor when asked if the current 25% capacity will change in the coming days. Last week Murphy said indoor dining at an increased capacity is “something we’re going to get to sooner than later.”
Chefs from Independent Restaurants Band Together
To boost business. As the coronavirus crisis dragged on late last spring, Rohini Dey, owner of Vermilion restaurant in Chicago, invited 16 female restaurateurs to join her for virtual brainstorming sessions called “Let’s Talk.” The goal was to share ideas, resources and support to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic, says Mary Nguyen Aregoni, chef-owner of Chicago’s Saigon Sisters and one of the participants. Independent restaurants have struggled for mere survival over the last seven months, with more and more shutting permanently every week. As winter approaches and a second wave of coronavirus is predicted, it’s expected that many more indies will close their doors for good. But like the Let’s Talk group, chefs and restaurateurs around the country are banding together to implement survival strategies. Instead of competing with each other for customers, they are collaborating to collectively boost everyone’s business.
How Will the Election Affect Your Business?
The Restaurant Law Center looked into a crystal ball. Prognosticating is never easy, but in a recent webinar the Association’s Restaurant Law Center (RLC) presented some potential impacts on the restaurant business that could result from the upcoming elections. No matter what the outcome, you’re bound to see changes in laws and regulations affecting the way you conduct business. In general, he says, election wins that give Democrats either the White House or a majority at federal or state levels will result in more regulation; a Republican win in the national election will result in less federal regulation, but potentially more state regulation.
Governor Wolf Vetoes Bills
To let restaurants and bars operate at full capacity. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican-sponsored bill Friday that would have let restaurants and bars reopen at up to full capacity, saying it would have jeopardized public health and safety. It was the latest in a string of coronavirus-related vetoes from the Democratic governor, as GOP state lawmakers have continually pressed for looser social distancing restrictions and to revoke or modify other Wolf policies. “This bill represents another meaningless attempt to change a necessary tool for fighting the pandemic,” Wolf wrote in the veto message. “These bills that do nothing more than seek to distract from our focus on helping Pennsylvanians cope and recover from this emergency must stop.”
Outdoor Liquor Permits Extended
As COVID-19 cases rise. Gov. Phil Murphy said today that the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is expanding special outdoor liquor licensing permits. The extension will be in effect from the end of Nov. through March 2021 and will cost a “nominal $10 fee.” “For many of our residents, having the ability to serve liquor to their customers beyond their normal premises has been meaningful and in some cases lifesaving for them in these challenging times,” Murphy said. “As the cooler weather pulls more of us back inside, we have to remain extra vigilant.”
Moody’s Says the Restaurant Industry’s Outlook has Improved
The bond rating service said the industry’s outlook has stabilized as business conditions have improved. The restaurant industry has stabilized as consumers have slowly returned to restaurants and restrictions on dine-in service have lifted, prompting Moody’s Investors Service to upgrade the industry’s economic outlook. The bond rating agency on Tuesday upgraded the industry’s outlook to “stable” from “negative,” where it had been since the pandemic altered the business landscape almost overnight back in March. Moody’s said it expects operating profit to decline by more than 30% this year because of restrictions due to the coronavirus, notably closures of dining rooms and lingering restrictions on capacity. But the firm expects profit to rebound next year, by about 15%.
Paycheck Protection Program Update
Where do you stand? The SBA, in consultation with the Treasury, released a new interim final rule, to simplify loan forgiveness for certain borrowers of Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans. Specifically, the SBA has issued a rule that provides for a de minimis exemption from the full-time equivalent employee reduction penalty and the employee salary and wage reduction penalty for loans of $50,000 or less. The rules place the responsibility on the PPP borrower to correctly calculate the loan forgiveness amount, and lenders are permitted to rely on the PPP borrower’s representations. PPP borrowers must verify and ensure that its forgiveness application, including the amount sought to be forgiven and all certifications to be made to obtain forgiveness, is complete and accurate.
The Importance of a Direct Ordering Channel for Restaurants
Equipping enterprise restaurants with digital ordering capability. The great news for restaurant operators is that 70% of diners would prefer to order from a restaurant directly instead of through a third party. Restaurants clearly need to be where their guests expect them to be. Today, that’s on their smartphones. And the most profitable digital option is the direct channel. It not only gives the restaurant the most direct interaction with guests, but it keeps more profit for the operator. Once customers are accustomed to third parties, winning them to the direct channel becomes a conversion game that can be difficult because of ingrained habit, convenience or both.
Did You Know?
NYC Restaurants and Bars can now add a 10 percent COVID surcharge to bills. Following City Council approval last month, NYC restaurants and bars can now start adding a surcharge of up to 10 percent to diners’ bills during the pandemic. The new regulation went into effect last Saturday, NY1 reports. The surcharge — which is separate from service tips, and is applied before sales tax on checks — could bring in extra revenue for restaurants and bars that are struggling to stay in operation while the city limits dining room capacity for public health safety. But the new allowance is a controversial measure among owners. Some vowed that they wouldn’t apply a surcharge because it might drive away their customer base, while others welcomed the ability to add an extra charge to cover PPE and sanitation costs without raising menu prices. The new regulation will remain in place until 90 days after restaurants and bars return to full indoor dining capacity.
When it comes to indoor dining, restaurant workers face the greatest risk. Outdoor restaurant dining is perhaps the closest we’ve come to a return to normalcy since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: Sidewalk and patio setups offer a familiar service while, if approached responsibly, mitigate risk. These outdoor dining rooms have remade the landscape of major metropolitan centers and small towns, allowing people to spill into the streets, visit with friends and family, and — for an hour or two — forget about the looming threat of a deadly and highly contagious virus. Outdoor setups have also given restaurants a way to bring back some of their staff and to welcome customers eager for a break from their own kitchens. When restaurateurs and diners alike are mindful and cautious, eating outside has proven to be relatively low risk. Indoor dining, however, is another story altogether.
Bielat Santore & Company – Restaurant Industry Daily Alerts
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