Restaurants are in danger — that is the message that the National Restaurant Association is communicating to Congress through an open letter sent Tuesday (Aug 24) regarding the threat that the delta variant poses. The letter relays findings of the association’s recent survey of restaurant customers, finding that many have stopped going to restaurants, and that people are switching to more socially distanced options.
“For an industry that requires a ‘full house’ every evening to make a profit, this is a dangerous trend,” reads the letter. “The small gains that our industry has made toward financial security are in danger of being wiped out, dashing the hopes of communities, entrepreneurs and consumers nationwide.”
The association asked Congress, consequently, to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), providing relief to the applications that it was not able to get to in the first round.
Earlier this year, Congress passed the RRF, which allotted $28.6 billion to provide relief for restaurants impacted by the pandemic. The program was swamped with restaurants in need, closing the application window earlier than expected and leaving many requests unanswered.
What The Data Are Saying
Research from PYMNTS’ Main Street Business Health Index has found that restaurants are something of a litmus test for the recovery of a community. The study found that two-thirds of Main Street small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) see the ability to open restaurants at full capacity as “very” or “extremely” important in enabling their community to get back to normal.
Related news: To See What ‘Normal’ Looks Like, Watch Main Street SMBs
However, we are not there yet. Around 72 percent of SMBs expect more temporary closures throughout the remainder of 2021, 88 percent expect to apply for at least one more loan in that time, and 95 percent expect changes to the physical space such as social distancing measures and outdoor spaces to remain at least partially in effect.
What the Experts Are Saying
With the rise in COVID-19 cases, the future remains uncertain for restaurant owners and operators, with risks both from consumers’ fears about the virus and from the possible consequences of both requiring and not requiring vaccination proof.
“There’s a lot of anxiety,” Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO at SaaS customer experience management solutions provider Paytronix, told Karen Webster in a recent interview, discussing the current climate among restaurant operators. “There’s anxiety from putting your frontline staff at risk, and you can put them at risk because of the delta variant. You can also put them at risk trying to enforce this stuff.”