Food

Here's How to Stay Updated on Changing Laws, Chef Activism, and More Resources to Save Restaurants

As we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry is doing whatever it can to stay strong amidst the chaos and closures. With a growing number bars and restaurants forced to close dining rooms, the need to ramp up carry-out, curbside pickup and delivery is becoming essential to stay in business, and chefs have had to get creative to remain sustainable. There are a number of industry resources, offering guidance on everything from how to handle sanitation to how to apply for economic assistance. We have a separate list of financial aid resources for foodservice workers here. We will keep updating this guide regularly; please email us at [email protected] about other resources you are using for your own business.

News, Petitions and Activism

The issue of how restaurant could possibly pay rent has loomed large as April drew near. Eater has a thorough guide to what restaurateurs need to know about new rent legislation, including eviction suspensions, along with a proposed bill that would cancel rent payments for 90 days entirely.  

Some hopeful news for restaurants: President Trump is considering reversing a provision of the 2017 tax-cut law that would enable corporations to deduct the full cost of meals from their taxes (currently, they’re able to deduct 50%), thus encouraging them to order from restaurants right now, and provide some much-needed income. Such an act would likely need to go through Congress, but it’s an optimistic idea. 

 

After passing in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the President formally signed the CARES Act—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, injecting $2 trillion into the U.S. economy, and the outcome looks optimistic for independent restaurants. As part of the Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act division, small businesses with 500 employees or less will get $377 billion, via federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain payroll, to help with paid sick leave, salaries, rent and other expenses. Here's a breakdown of how it affects restaurant owners and chefs. And here's what you need to know  about the American Families First Act, passed on March 18.

For many restaurateurs, it hasn’t been smooth sailing navigating insurance policies and coverage during this time of mass closures. Chefs Thomas KellerWolfgang PuckDaniel BouludJean-Georges Vongerichten and Dominique Crenn joined forces to establish a new restaurant insurance initiative called Business Interruption Group (BIG), which they presented to President Trump to bring attention to insurance companies denying business interruption coverage during the pandemic. The initiative, created with insurance attorney John W. Houghtaling II, seeks insurance payment for COVID-19 and solutions for federal subsidies for insurers who waive exclusions on these policies. 

It’s a pivotal time to rally for restaurant relief with legislators and federal assistance. Some of America’s most famed restaurateurs and chefs, including Tom Colicchio, Kevin Boehm, Sean Brock and Naomi Pomeroy, have joined forces to create the Independent Restaurant Coalition, an organization open to everyone passionate about speaking up for America’s hospitality industry. By signing up and joining the movement, you can get connected with lawmakers, stay up to date on the latest news and have access to social media mobilization efforts. This document is an excellent resource for navigating what the stimulus package means for small businesses. It’s filled with helpful guidance and tips, including how to talk to your banks and accountants, building projections and using forgivable loans to rehire staff. And this guide from the Restaurant Law Center dives into the details of paid sick leave laws enacted due to COVID-19.

A group of chefs launched a national petition to save America's restaurants on change.org, and more than 300K consumers, chefs and industry professionals have signed it. We need more to ensure that our leaders step up and save our industry. Click here to sign and share the petition, and call your representatives and senators to demand that restaurants are part of the federal stimulus plan. You can reach them by phone at  202.224.3121 or tweet them directly—here’s a comprehensive list of Congressional twitter handles.  

In New York City, the American city hit hardest by COVID-19 so far, ROAR (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants is an ongoing petition amassing signatures to lobby the state government for aid and support for its thousands upon thousands of restaurants. As of now, they’ve collected more than 35K signatures. The NYC Hospitality Alliance has created a Google document called #RestaurantRescuePlan, a social media campaign designed to compile employees furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 as a powerful tool to bring to local government leaders.  

There are similar petitions gaining steam in Las Vegas, lobbying the governor on the behalf of the city’s world-class dining industry, and in Philadelphia, prominent restaurateurs like Greg Vernick, Marc Vetri and Stephen Starr have joined forces with a change.org petition addressed to government officials at the city level, state level and federal level. Then there’s the Seattle Restaurants United initiative, a new petition aimed at local and federal officials providing ideas for support and solutions to keep Seattle’s struggling dining industry afloat. 

General Information

One potential possibility for steady revenue for restaurants is providing food for hospitals, which are flooded with patients and stretched thin. Atlanta’s Castellucci Hospitality Group has partnered with local hospitals to deliver meals, which people can purchase for $15 apiece through the company’s online store, and the organization then matches the purchase and donates a free meal. ScrubGrub Greater Houston & Galveston is a new group connecting restaurants with hospitals, via sponsored meals purchased by the general public, while Limoncello Fresh Italian Kitchen in Las Vegas is raising money from the community to provide meals for hospital workers through its Feed the Frontlines initiative. And in Chicago, Mini Mott is doing similar. Here’s a heartwarming article about how restaurants are calling for donations in order to support local medical workers.

Another rising side effect of the pandemic and the widespread closure of restaurants is an uptick in food waste, due largely to hoarding at grocery stores and farms not having enough outlets for selling. This piece on National Geographic rounds up some helpful solutions for minimizing food waste, including tips on storage, at-home preparation and donations to medical workers. 

In New York City, COVID-19 Food Hub is a helpful tool for finding outlets for food donations to families in need and sharing resources to minimize waste.

No doubt, the pandemic has the potential to trigger or worsen mental health issues for many across the country, especially restaurant and hospitality workers. Kat Kinsman has this informative, supportive and inspiring piece on Food & Wine about mental wellness today, and also provides a list of resources, from a Facebook group called “Chefs With Issues” to virtual support groups at The Lovett Center, for yourself or loved ones. 

The James Beard Foundation is hosting free webinars for the industry this week, beginning at 1p.m. CST. Today's topic is Demystifying Government Relief Programs and tomorrow's will be Spirited Conversation about At-Home Mixology

This is a useful guide with valueable advice on how to handle everything from hand-washing to sanitation in your restaurant, and what to do during a prolonged shut-down. To see the most effective disinfectants (including contact time they should remain on surfaces) for use against COVID-19, see this list from the EPA.

ServSafe also has a comprehensive overview of best practices for sanitation, symptoms and prevention, which should come in especially handy for restaurants operating take-out or pickup.

For podcast-listeners looking for a sense of solidarity, Take Away Only is a new show from journalist Howie Kahn, who created this “emergency podcast” to address the most pressing issues and news facing the restaurant industry right now. The series includes interviews with restaurateurs, as well as stories crafted to inspire and uplift during these dark times. 

One of the looming issues for restaurants right now is how to pay rent. For a vast majority of businesses, not even a huge uptick in delivery or take-out will be enough to make up for the disappearance of dine-in customers, and owners are rightfully worried about how to pay the bills. Eater published an excellent interview with restaurant lawyer Jasmine Moy about how owners can talk to their landlords about a rent freeze. 

The National Restaurant Association also has a wealth of information and resources on its site, including social distancing guidelines, food safety measures and more. 

Industry Facebook groups are popping up daily, offering advice for front of the house and back of the house, resources, news, or just a sounding board for advice, economic help or latest news. Check out Hospitality Industry Alliance | COVID-19, Hospitality Strong, #WeAreOne and Industry United.

The Trotter Project in Chicago is creating a Covid-19 Resource Center page on its website. It includes CDC guidelines, economic assistance information, a list of restaurants across America offering take-out and delivery, merchandise available for purchase, and more. 

One thing that isn’t helpful during a pandemic—or any crisis—is rumors. This FEMA site is a great resource for managing coronavirus rumor control, with clear explanations for what’s true and what’s false during these rapidly changing times. It helps to know what’s a myth and what’s not, so you can not only maintain your own sanity, but prevent the spread of dangerous rumors. 

Gift Card and Delivery Promotions

As thousands of restaurants across the country pivot to delivery and take-out models, many for the first time, one important aspect is ensuring your website makes the pivot as well. Here’s an insightful piece on The Takeout illustrating the importance of delivery-friendly restaurant websites, and companies like Boston-based Fisherman set up a coronavirus support program, offering free website services for restaurants for the next six months. 

Another important aspect is adapting to a new curbside model, something that’s completely new for many businesses. The Texas Restaurant Association put together this helpful webinar hosted by three restaurateurs, discussing how to make it work.

In Los Angeles, local restaurants are teaming with Los Angeles magazine and Wagstaff Media & Marketing to create a new gift card campaign called “One More Helping,” a pay-it-forward model that sees restaurants donating $1 from every gift card purchase to another small business or non-profit that needs aid. Current participating restaurants include Alta AdamsManuelaBroken Spanish and Playa Provisions, with donees like The Cooking Project, No Kid Hungry, One Fair Wage and Meals on Wheels. 

Promote your gift card program so guests can contribute to your cash flow. Go to Rally for Restaurants to add your restaurant to its directory. Give Local is another resource. The website has a running list of restaurants selling gift cards, which help businesses fund immediate costs. Local for Later is an ongoing database of restaurants with gift cards for sale, with representation from cities like Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and upstate New York. Another new website is Help Main Street, a database of more than 13,000 restaurants across the country, with a focus on New York City, with online gift cards for sale.

The restaurant delivery database Dining at a Distance has expanded beyond Chicago to include Charleston, Cleveland, Detroit, Asheville, Houston, Savannah, Milwaukee and more cities. They also just added a farm database for farms in the Midwest, providing resources for people who’d like to support their local farms, with information on farm size, location, products and different means of getting said products.  Go to the site to add your restaurant, and keep checking back to see more cities included. In Vancouver, Breaking Bread Vancouver features area restaurants offering dine-in and delivery specials, and offer ideas for small businesses being affected. If you are in the Atlanta area, this blog has a list of all restaurants with take-out and delivery options.As more and more restaurants navigate delivery options for the first time, companies like Seven Rooms is a helpful resource. The company focuses on helping restaurants establish direct delivery options, skirting third-party apps to maximize revenue and establish more customer loyalty. 

We will be continuing to update this resource list.  Email us at [email protected] or let us know in the comments about other resources, forums or social media groups you are relying on right now.