Each week, Restaurant Hospitality gathers five stories that impact independent restaurant operations that you may have missed.
Here’s your list for the week of March 29:
- Texas restaurant group CEO Emily Williams Knight to join National Restaurant Association in industry relations role on May 3
The National Restaurant Association has named Emily Williams Knight, president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, to the new role of chief collaboration officer, the trade group said last week. The Washington, D.C.-based association said Knight would assume the position May 3. Brian Casey, chair of the National Restaurant Association and president and owner of Oak Hill Tavern and The Company Picnic Co. in North Kingstown, R.I., said, “Independent restaurants, such as mine, are facing a unique set of challenges as we begin to reopen and rebuild our businesses. Our road to recovery is long and uncertain. Emily’s experience, including as a state restaurant association executive, working with restaurants of all business models, will benefit the National Restaurant Association members and strengthen our national, state and local partnerships.”
Read more: Texas restaurant group CEO to join national association in industry relations role
- Illinois dining room cap doesn’t include vaccinated guests
Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week said Illinois restaurants can increase dining caps with a loophole — vaccinated guests and those who have tested negative for COVID-19 within three days of their visit do not count towards the limit.
This new regulation was introduced as part of Pritzker’s “bridge plan” which will begin when 70% of elderly population aged 65 and up has received at least one dose of the vaccine. That number is currently 58%, according to Pritzker. This is the final stage until full recovery, Phase 5, when businesses can fully reopen and conventions will be allowed to take place. The National Restaurant Association show in May, however, has already been canceled as an in-person event.
Restaurant industry workers were not eligible for the vaccine in Illinois as of the announcement and health officials initially set a goal date of March 29, but no news has been released.
Read more: Illinois Restaurants Are Closer to Fully Reopening After Governor Unveils ‘Bridge Phase’
- 10% of all restaurants have closed permanently, new Datassential study reports
Market research firm Datassential reported on Monday that 10.2% of all restaurants have closed since the pandemic began. Of these closures, food trucks have been hit the hardest, with 22.5% of all food trucks permanently closing, while quick-service restaurants have seen the fewest closures — 9.8% — during the same period.
Regionally, the District of Columbia has seen the largest number of restaurant closures at 14.9%, while Delaware has seen the least, with 8.2%. In terms of cuisine, French restaurants have taken the hardest hit, according to Datassential’s research, with a permanent closure rate of 15.3%, while other global cuisines have seen 12.7% of closures, with burger and Thai restaurants seeing the fewest number of closures: 7.3% and 7.5%, respectively.
"This last year has been one the toughest the restaurant industry has ever faced," said Jack Li, Datassential's CEO. "But the good news is that the rate of closures is slowing, and the future is bright for those restaurants who have learned to adapt to the host of new challenges facing them in our new normal."
Read more: Datassential: More than 10% of U.S. restaurants have closed permanently
- When will Restaurant Revitalization Fund applications open up?
The Small Business Administration has set a target for next month to begin taking applications for the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants.
The SBA will likely start posting relevant qualifications, instructions and other information for restaurant operators over the next 7 to 10 days and give guidance on supporting documents needed to apply. Then, applications would be open to prioritized groups, including women, veterans and oppressed groups, who would be first in line for the initial wave of grants, before being opened up to a wider rollout.
“We get it,” Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access said in a Senate Small Business Committee meeting last week. “We are working as fast as we can and around the clock to get the restaurant relief program up off the ground. And so, the timeframe we’re trying to go for is in the next 30 days.”
Read more: Here’s when the Restaurant Revitalization Fund applications are opening up
- Chef José Andrés partners with the White House to fight food insecurity
Chef and founder of World Central Kitchen José Andrés joined forces with the White House and Biden administration to combat food insecurity, putting the spotlight on $12 billion set aside for feeding those in need as part of the American Rescue Plan.
During the pandemic, Andrés and World Central Kitchen have helped distribute 36 million meals. The new funding, as Andrés explains in the video, will expand federal support for combatting food insecurity, including:
- Access to the pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, program throughout the school year and summer to allow families and children in need to gain access to nutritious meals
- An extension of the temporary 15% increase in SNAP benefits through Sept. 30, 2021
- Investments in technology for SNAP beneficiaries to order groceries online
- $880 million toward expanding access to healthy food as part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
- $37 million for senior citizens’ nutrition
- $1 billion in nutrition assistance for U.S. territories
Read more: José Andrés’ mission to battle food insecurity reaches from disaster zones to the White House