Restaurants were one of the first businesses forced to close when the novel coronavirus outbreak began in the United States, and now they are one of the leading industries with businesses announcing permanent closures.
“What we have seen over the last three weeks has been nothing short of a tidal wave,” said Sean Kennedy, who is with the National Restaurant Association. “3% of all restaurants have already announced they are closing their doors forever.”
That number, according to the National Restaurant Association, could jump as high as 11% in just the next few weeks.
“We are a $2.5 trillion driver for this economy, employing one out of every 10 workers,” said Kennedy, “More important than that we are such an institution for local communities, we drive up real estate, housing prices, we are the anchors for so many communities, and we want to make sure we can continue doing that but it is going to be a real struggle moving ahead.”
The National Restaurant Association is calling on Congress to tailor specific help to the restaurant industry in the next stimulus package, because while many restaurants are trying to stay open, through offering take-out and delivery, most cannot survive this way much longer.
“Virtually every restaurant is adopting some type of carry out or delivery model, even if they never had one before,” added Kennedy. “At the same time, 70% of operators have already laid off their workforce, a lot more layoffs are going to occur.
Kennedy explained the restaurant industry has had to lay off 3 million people already and that number is climbing steadily. The National Restaurant Association believes at this rate, it could be as much as 7 million jobs lost in the restaurant industry, if there isn’t an immediate response from Congress.
In the meantime, the National Restaurant Association has been fundraising, and has announced a grant program to help restaurant workers laid off or financially impacted by the pandemic. Restaurant workers who need help can apply for the grants at RERF.US .
“So far, we have raised over $10 million for this program. It is a series of $500 grants,” said Kennedy. “100% of the proceeds that we take in are going directly to affected workers.”
Most Americans, social distancing at home, are cooking on average 21 meals a week. Those who can afford to still eat out once or twice a week could save their local favorite restaurant and thousands of jobs.