March 16, 2020 – The “Lockdown” Begins. All bars and restaurants are closed for eat-in services effective 8:00 PM this evening until further notice. After 8:00 PM and until further notice, these establishments may open for take-out and delivery orders only. The restrictions will be in place during daytime as well. Again, I repeat, just because I want to make sure there’s no confusion: all bars and restaurants are closed for eat-in services in the entirety of New Jersey effective 8:00 PM this evening until further notice. After 8:00 PM not just this evening but other evenings and until further notice, these establishments may be open for takeout and delivery orders only and these restrictions will be in place during daytime hours as well. As a general matter, all gatherings of 50 or more persons are cancelled effective 8:00 PM tonight with very limited exceptions. And frankly, if you asked me about an exception. I’m not sure I’ve got a good answer for you. But any gatherings of 50 or more are cancelled effective tonight.
A Year of Crisis for Restaurants
The year in review. The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, but the industry responded with innovation, resiliency and a commitment to community.
4 Things for Restaurants to Remember
As they come out of the pandemic. All around us, the restaurant industry has gone through dramatic change. Numerous favorites are gone. Friendly faces we were used to seeing have disappeared. Everything looks different, whether you dine inside or sit in the open air. We don’t know whether all of the change will continue as life slowly gets back to normal. But we’ve learned a number of important lessons. Here are four key ones.
Understanding the Restaurant Revitalization Fund
Relief fund for restaurants. A year after the first restaurants were ordered to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new fund is expected to throw a lifeline to restaurants still staggering from losses sustained in 2020. The American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law last week by President Joe Biden, means the creation of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund and a new federal program for restaurant owners with 20 or fewer locations. Operators can apply for tax-free grants of up to $5 million per location, or up to $10 million for multi-location operations, according to the National Restaurant Association. The grant amount is determined by subtracting 2020 sales from 2019 revenues.
Restaurant Sales are Showing Recovery
Even before the stimulus hits. Restaurants are heading into the spring on an upward trajectory, but the weather has again demonstrated it remains a singular influential factor in the industry’s performance, according to recently released sales data. That data also shows how far restaurants have to go before they can say they are fully recovered. The restaurant sales tracker Black Box Intelligence said on Tuesday that the industry had its third-best week since the start of the pandemic in the week ended March 7—with positive same-store sales at limited-service restaurants, while fine dining demonstrated improved sales. It was the best week since mid-January when consumers armed with stimulus cash flocked to restaurants, suggesting that consumers are returning as more states lift restrictions designed to keep COVID at bay.
Bielat Santore & Company Bringing Back
It’s “Restaurant Rap” 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. Starting next week, Bielat Santore & Company will restart its “Restaurant Rap” interview series and examine how these professionals have endured and outlasted the pandemic over the past year. Look for the first in this revived series next week in an interview with Angelo DiCapua, owner/operator of MJ’s Restaurants.
Why Starting a Restaurant During the Pandemic
Was a smart move. Starting a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic may sound about as ill-advised as going for a cruise in a rubber raft in the middle of a nor’easter. According to a survey of operators conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 17 percent of restaurants in the United States had closed permanently or long-term by Dec. 1. Many were victims of the enormous shift in household food spending brought on by the pandemic, which redirected money that had been used for eating out toward groceries, delivery and takeout. Not every restaurateur who opened a new place in the past year was lucky enough to find a landlord as accommodating. But going into business after the initial shutdowns gave them other advantages, some of them say. It meant they didn’t have to pivot, which is easier on a basketball court than in a kitchen where workflows, budgets and inventory were designed around serving meals in a crowded dining room.
Restaurateurs with Cash are Ready to Seize
The post-Covid moment. In 2020, a record number of U.S. restaurants closed their doors for good. In 2021, the industry’s survivors see an unprecedented opportunity. Cash-strapped landlords are offering more concessions than ever to fill space, while the vaccine-led promise of a return to normal life — and a new round of government stimulus — is expected to unleash a wave of pent-up demand for dining out. That sets the stage for a spate of restaurant openings heading into next year. It’s a very uneven landscape. If the bulk of the estimated 91,000 restaurants and bars that closed in 2020 were small, family-owned establishments, many of those that are now rushing to set up are chains or Covid-era conveniences like ghost kitchens. Not only does this signal a rapid acceleration of a decades-long trend of local eateries giving way to corporate-backed enterprises, but it highlights, once again, how the pandemic has exacerbated the inequality that marks nearly every facet of the U.S. economy: Strong, deep-pocketed businesses are thriving while the weaker are struggling to survive.
Restaurants Try Offering Freebies
To get customers to wear masks. Across the country, a number of states and municipalities have lifted mask mandates, and some never had them at all. But in many places, restaurant workers have yet to get vaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to COVID-19. So, restaurant owners have come up with incentives, like free food, to convince customers to keep their masks on in their shops. Unfortunately, the idea is not getting much traction. In Gulfport, Florida, Golden Dinosaurs, a vegan lunch spot, offered free donuts if customers would wear masks to its pick-up window for 30 days straight. Customers are pulling down their masks to place their orders, since their voices are muffled by the coverings. Once they sit down, they remove their masks to eat. Then, when they go back to the counter to get to-go boxes for leftovers, they fail to put their masks back on.
Bar Service in Pennsylvania to Return
Alcohol curfew to lift on Easter. Pennsylvania bars and restaurants can resume bar service, sell alcohol without a food purchase and operate at 75% capacity beginning April 4, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday. The curfew on alcohol sales also will be lifted. Currently, bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and clear tables of drinks by midnight. Bar service has been prohibited since last year, and food purchases have had to accompany alcohol sales. The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association expressed relief that restrictions to dining and bars would be loosened soon but was critical of the timing of the changes.
Did You Know?
The pandemic swept restaurants into the digital age. Progress tends to happen gradually, over the course of years or decades. Rome, as the old saying goes, wasn’t built in a day. That wisdom has been tested over the past 12 months, during which life as we know it was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. With dining rooms closed and consumers hunkered down at home, restaurants, notoriously slow to adopt new technology, had no other choice but to dive in head-first, or risk extinction. The result was years’ worth of technological progress in a matter of months—and in some cases, days. As the U.S. marks one year since the crisis began, with vaccinations ramping up and restrictions easing, restaurants are reemerging as a transformed industry.
Big expansion in N.J. COVID vaccine eligibility includes teachers, restaurant workers. Hundreds of thousands of more people will be eligible to receive a vaccination for the coronavirus in New Jersey over the next month. On March 29, eligibility will be expanded for frontline essential workers in the restaurant, food processing and distribution industries, grocery personnel, warehouse workers, remaining eldercare workers, hospitality workers, elections workers, clergy, postal and other shipping workers, and judicial system employees.
Bielat Santore & Company – Restaurant Industry Daily Alerts
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Bielat Santore & Company teamed up with SCORE NJ, the states’ largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors to present a series of webinars on small business financing for the hospitality industry. The initial March 4th webinar was well-attended and well-received. The second webinar in the 3-part series will take place on Thursday, March 25th at 10:00am. The topic for this webinar is “Assembling Your Loan Requisition Presentation.” Sign up now!