The news dropped like an atomic bomb, but it was a bomb we saw coming in very slow motion.
While it has never been a perfect source of determining the quality of a restaurant, Yelp is a good resource for vast economic data, and on June 25, 2020, it released its economic impact report, and the news was not good–in fact it was apocalyptic.
According to the report, 140,000 businesses have closed since March 1, and of those, nearly 24,000 are restaurants. Now, not all of those restaurant closings are permanent, but 53% of them are, and that number continues to grow with every single spike of Covid-19 across the country–not that we should have to reiterate, but, wear a mask, people.
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Independent restaurants are hit hardest, but the virus hasn’t exempted the massive chains either. Some of the biggest hit chains include Denny’s, which lost 15 locations in upstate New York alone, IHOP, which closed 49 of its stores, Ruby Tuesday with 150 closed locations, Souplantation filed for bankruptcy, Steak ‘n Shake permanently closed 51 spots, Chuck E. Cheese filed for bankruptcy, and TGI Fridays is predicting about 75 permanent closures.
140,000 businesses have closed since March 1, and of those, nearly 24,000 are restaurants.
According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the restaurant industry has already lost upwards of $120 billion and that 34% of restaurant operators can’t even justify reopening because of a lack of business due to the pandemic. Also, according to the NRA’s most recent surveys, 3% of all restaurants have permanently closed and 85% of all independently owned restaurants could close by the end of the year if there’s no additional government support.
I’ll say it again: Apocalyptic.
Enough with the dire news, though. There are many ways to help save the restaurant industry and your favorite eateries right now.
In a previous article, we espoused the virtues of Dining Bonds where you can spend $75 today on a bond that will be worth $100 in the future. Along with bonds, you can go directly to your favorite restaurants and purchase gift cards, merchandise, bottles of wine, and more. If you do buy a gift card–DON’T SPEND IT until this crisis is over. Think of it as an investment in the restaurant you love and hopefully can help support during this insane time.
Other ways to help are through a variety of excellent organizations. The James Beard Foundation has launched a fund that is providing micro-grants to independent food and beverage businesses in need. World Central Kitchen, founded by Michelin chef José Andrés, is helping activate kitchens that will provide jobs for out-of-work restaurant employees and help feed frontline workers and families in need. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation has a relief fund that gives to individual restaurant workers in addition to providing zero-interest loans to help restaurants re-start from scratch. Then there’s The Lee Initiative, which has a restaurant reboot relief program as well as a restaurant workers relief program. Finally, there’s the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, who has teamed up with Guy Fieri, and is providing grants to restaurant workers. Fieri helped raise $23 million in the first two weeks of the partnership.
If you do buy a gift card–DON’T SPEND IT until this crisis is over.
In addition to organizations and gift cards, order take-out, lots, and lots of take-out. But think twice before using delivery apps, sometimes it’s best to just go pick up the food yourself. Companies like GrubHub, Postmates, Uber Eats, and others tack on exorbitant fees for their service, sometimes to the tune of 30% that the restaurant has to eat (no pun intended). Fortunately, there are some cities like New York and Los Angeles who have set fee caps at 15%, but they’re still killing your restaurant even when you think you’re helping. Get in your car and pick it up yourself.
One other thing on takeout, think about ordering liquor, beer, or wine with your food. The restaurant’s margins are the greatest on alcohol purchases, and a little bit goes a long way. So now you can drink and feel good in more ways than one!
Lastly, one of the best things you can do right now is to contact your local representatives. The NRA (the good one) sent a letter to Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell outlining areas in which the federal government can help. Call your reps, bug them, harass them, hold them accountable at the ballot box (there is an election in November…), and make sure they’re doing whatever they can to support the restaurants you love.
And, of course, let your friends know this information. If you want to ensure that 85% of independent restaurants don’t close by the end of the year, it’s going to take a collective effort to bail them out so you won’t have to eat at McDonald’s every time you want to go to a restaurant.
Time to do your part to stave off the restaurant apocalypse.