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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

After RRF Failure, What’s Next for Us?

After RRF Failure, What’s Next for Us?

by David Klemt

Super Mario Bros. game booth

After the US Senate failed to even debate the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, instead opting to let it die, what’s next?

Obviously, trusting our elected officials to do the right thing isn’t a viable option. After all, the Senate slow-walked the RRF’s death march. It took six weeks after the House voted “yes” on RRF for senators to filibuster the bill to death.

Last Thursday, the National Restaurant Association addressed moving forward. Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs, released a 90-second video in which he spoke about the RRF and where we are now.

Reconciliation?

One of the first options Kennedy proposes in his video is a reconciliation bill. That, however, is highly unlikely to come to fruition.

So, what’s a reconciliation bill? Simply put, it has to do with the Senate’s supermajority requirement.

In order for a bill to advance to a vote, 60 percent of the Senate must support ending a filibuster. On that topic, a filibuster is a procedural tool that prolongs a debate. The filibuster is used to delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, etc.

Now, a budget reconciliation bill circumvents the supermajority requirement. A simple majority—51 senators for the US Senate—is all it takes to override a filibuster in this instance.

Technically, from what I’ve come to understand, the Senate can pass a maximum of three budget reconciliation bills in a year. Most often, it passes a single such bill per year.

Obviously, Kennedy feels that this would be a longshot to cross our fingers and hope the RRF is funded via these means.

Staying Ready

As they say—yes, “they”—if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. According to Kennedy, the NRA is prepared to act in any way they can should replenishing the RRF or similar aide once again become an option.

“We’re gonna continue to closely monitor the situation and we certainly can activate if there any signs of movement,” he says. “We’re not seeing them yet.”

The “yet” there is perhaps a bit hopeful. And as we like to say, hope isn’t a strategy. However, optimism is far healthier than pessimism and hopelessness.

Additionally, Kennedy and the NRA are grateful to the bipartisan group of representatives and senators who have shown their support for our industry and replenishing the RRF.

“We’re incredibly appreciative of the works of our champions in Congress,” says Kennedy.

In particular, he acknowledges Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and senators Ben Carden (D-MD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). In the House, Kennedy thanks Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

What’s Next?

As Kennedy says, much of what he discussed with people at the 2022 NRA Show centered around this very topic. Just what are we supposed to do moving forward?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer, no simple solution we can point to and implement.

Instead, we have several issues we must navigate to keep restaurant and bar doors open:

  • What can we do to more effectively recruit and retain staff?
  • How can we best address increases in food costs and problems with availability?
  • Is there a way to address rising credit card transaction fees?

Of course, that’s but a handful of what we must address and solve. And at least when it comes to the first question, we know some of the elements for the solution:

  • Treat staff with respect.
  • Value diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Improve pay and offer benefits.
  • Develop a healthy company culture and workplace.

On the topic of state and local policymakers, expecting help is a dicey proposition.

Unless they engage with the owners, operators, and industry professionals in their states, counties, cites, and towns, they’ll hurt these businesses. The only effective and helpful way forward is for them to engage with us and not simply introduce and pass legislation that hurts. Possible, of course, but a big ask as we’ve seen proven time and time again.

Image: Minator Yang on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Breakdown: How Senators Voted on RRF

Breakdown: How Senators Voted on RRF

by David Klemt

U.S. Capitol Building exterior, cloudy blue skies

After a year of waiting, we now know the fate of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund: a 52 to 43 vote that saw RRF replenishment fail on the Senate floor.

Last Thursday, the US Senate voted to debate the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 (S.4008). A filibuster put an end to this effort to replenish the RRF.

To be blunt, this is a disgrace. Eligible RRF applicants have been awaiting needed and deserved grants for a year. We were left out of Build Back Better, we were left out of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill passed in March.

A contributing factor to why this is so disappointing is the passing of S.3811. Of particular note, 32 of the senators who voted against $40 billion for American restaurants and bars voted in favor of $40 billion for supplemental aid for Ukraine.

Now, I’m not saying that Ukraine doesn’t deserve our support. Likewise, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have voted to provide the war-torn country $40 billion in aid.

However, I am saying that I find it indefensible that dozens of our senators would send that kind of money overseas, then turn around and deny relief for American businesses.

In one moment we have senators saying America needs to come first. They then proceed to turn their backs on hard-working Americans.

Nay Votes

Unfortunately, 43 senators—all Republican—voted against the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022. Therefore, they voted against replenish the RRF.

However, that doesn’t mean all Republican senators voted against the bill. Indeed, four Republicans voted with their Democrat and Independent peers.

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Boozman (R-AR)
  • Braun (R-IN)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Capito (R-WV)
  • Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Cotton (R-AR)
  • Cramer (R-ND)
  • Crapo (R-ID)
  • Cruz (R-TX)
  • Daines (R-MT)
  • Fischer (R-NE)
  • Graham (R-SC)
  • Grassley (R-IA)
  • Hagerty (R-TN)
  • Hawley (R-MO)
  • Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Johnson (R-WI)
  • Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Lankford (R-OK)
  • Lee (R-UT)
  • Lummis (R-WY)
  • McConnell (R-KY)
  • Moran (R-KS)
  • Paul (R-KY)
  • Portman (R-OH)
  • Risch (R-ID)
  • Romney (R-UT)
  • Rounds (R-SD)
  • Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sasse (R-NE)
  • Scott (R-FL)
  • Scott (R-SC)
  • Shelby (R-AL)
  • Sullivan (R-AK)
  • Thune (R-SD)
  • Tillis (R-NC)
  • Toomey (R-PA)
  • Tuberville (R-AL)
  • Young (R-IN)

Yea Votes

It’s important to remember that the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 was a bipartisan effort. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced the bill, which included $40 billion for the RRF and $8 billion for other businesses.

Four Republican senators and two Independents voted in the affirmative with all Democrats.

  • Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Bennet (D-CO)
  • Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Blunt (R-MO)
  • Booker (D-NJ)
  • Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Cardin (D-MD)
  • Carper (D-DE)
  • Casey (D-PA)
  • Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Collins (R-ME)
  • Coons (D-DE)
  • Cortez Masto (D-NV)
  • Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Durbin (D-IL)
  • Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Hassan (D-NH)
  • Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Hickenlooper (D-CO)
  • Hirono (D-HI)
  • Kaine (D-VA)
  • Kelly (D-AZ)
  • King (I-ME)
  • Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Leahy (D-VT)
  • Lujan (D-NM)
  • Manchin (D-WV)
  • Markey (D-MA)
  • Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Merkley (D-OR)
  • Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Murphy (D-CT)
  • Murray (D-WA)
  • Ossoff (D-GA)
  • Padilla (D-CA)
  • Peters (D-MI)
  • Reed (D-RI)
  • Sanders (I-VT)
  • Schatz (D-HI)
  • Schumer (D-NY)
  • Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Sinema (D-AZ)
  • Smith (D-MN)
  • Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Tester (D-MT)
  • Warner (D-VA)
  • Warnock (D-GA)
  • Warren (D-MA)
  • Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Wicker (R-MS)
  • Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting

Three Democrat and two Republican senators didn’t vote on S.4008.

  • Brown (D-OH)
  • Ernst (R-IA)
  • Marshall (R-KS)
  • Rosen (D-NV)
  • Van Hollen (D-MD)

Yay Votes for Ukraine, Nay Votes for RRF

The following senators, all Republican, voted to send $40 billion in aid to Ukraine.

The same day, they voted against $40 billion to replenish the RRF, voting against American restaurants and bars.

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Capito (R-WV)
  • Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Cotton (R-AR)
  • Cramer (R-ND)
  • Cruz (R-TX)
  • Daines (R-MT)
  • Fischer (R-NE)
  • Graham (R-SC)
  • Grassley (R-IA)
  • Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Johnson (R-WI)
  • Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Lankford (R-OK)
  • McConnell (R-KY)
  • Moran (R-KS)
  • Portman (R-OH)
  • Risch (R-ID)
  • Romney (R-UT)
  • Rounds (R-SD)
  • Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sasse (R-NE)
  • Scott (R-FL)
  • Scott (R-SC)
  • Shelby (R-AL)
  • Sullivan (R-AK)
  • Thune (R-SD)
  • Tillis (R-NC)
  • Toomey (R-PA)
  • Young (R-IN)

Image: PartTime Portraits on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

US Senate Fails to Replenish the RRF

US Senate Fails to Replenish the RRF

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building exterior and blue sky

After conflicting reports and speculation, the US Senate has finally voted this week on replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Last week, multiple sources reported that the Senate would hold their RRF vote this week. Just days ago, several outlets sounded the alarm, reporting that the vote would be pushed to next week. The reason, these sources provided, was the Senate’s scramble to repackage and hold another vote on aid for Ukraine.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked the bill that would provide $40 billion in defense and humanitarian aid. Unsurprisingly, it was also Sen. Paul who objected to $43 billion in emergency funding last August, killing that RRF replenishment effort.

Today, on the Senate floor, Sen. Paul repeatedly derided the replenishment of the RRF as a “bailout.” Additionally, he asked, “Where’s the emergency?”

So, one can infer that the impending closure of an estimated 50 percent of RRF applicants—88,500—isn’t an emergency to the Kentucky senator. Simple math shows that if each of those applicants has just ten employees, that’s a loss of 885,000 jobs.

Rightfully so, people throughout the industry have been more than a little concerned that the bill would receive at least 60 “yea” votes today.

At issue is where the funds would come from. While Democrats view replenishing the RRF as emergency funding, Republicans prefer to reallocate existing funds.

Senate Fails to Replenish RRF

Today’s vote was a long time coming. In fact, it’s just days shy of one year since the RRF application portal closed.

Now, after a 223 to 203 vote in the House to replenish RRF, our senators have failed us. The resulting vote was 52 to 43, falling short of the 60 “yeas” necessary

I’m not despondent over this news. Honestly, I think I’ve made it rather clear that our politicians failing us wouldn’t at all surprise me. Yet I still find myself incredibly disappointed.

Disappointed in how the RRF was handled, disappointed in the grant approval process, disappointed in how emergency funding was blocked, and disappointed in how we were left out of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better and March omnibus bills.

And gravely disillusioned now that I’ve finally learned how little many of our senators care about us. Hospitality is an industry that employed nearly 17 million people in 2019. In terms of revenue, we’re projected by the National Restaurant Association to generate almost $900 billion in sales.

Not enough, it’s clear, for a majority of senators to vote to replenish the RRF.

However, I’m mostly dismayed for the owners and operators who have waited a year just to have this lifeline yanked from their fingertips. Today’s failure in the Senate puts millions of jobs at risk.

Underfunded from the Start

For those who found themselves in RRF limbo, the wait for this vote has been agonizing.

The RRF application portal opened May 3, 2021. Initially, the process looked promising. For the first 21 days, the Small Business Administration announced, priority would be granted to small businesses with a minimum of 51 percent ownership by women, veterans or socially disadvantaged people.

However, the SBA closed the portal immediately after processing only about 101,000 priority applications, or one-third of applicants. So, ever since May 24 of last year, “non-priority” applicants have been left wondering if they’d ever receive an RRF grant.

In addition to the premature closure of the application process, the RRF was woefully underfunded. Clearly, that point was driven home when $75 billion in applications were submitted to a fund with just $28.6 billion.

So, the quick closure and unrealistic funding meant that out of the over 362,000 initial applicants, around 177,000 have been watching and waiting.

A Year-long Wait

Shortly after the RRF portal was closed, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. Per the contents of the letter, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or have the opportunity to apply for grants.

Indeed, those applicants stuck in RRF limbo have been waiting for relief for just days shy of a year. And that’s only counting the days since the portal closed. Operators across the industry, not just those who applied for RRF grants, have been scratching and clawing to stave off insolvency and closures.

Advocates such as the Independent Restaurant Coalition have been sounding the alarm. RRF applicants could be just days away from bankruptcy and needed the government to act. To be brutally honest, relief may still come too late for many applicants.

Congress has certainly had the time to vote on and replenish the RRF. In June 2021, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the RRF Replenishment Act bill. In July, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced an alternative bill, the ENTREE Act.

Of course, as we well know, an attempt in August to replenish the RRF with $43 billion in emergency funding was blocked by Sen. Paul. In November, Build Back Better was passed. Obviously, the RRF and our industry were left out the $1.7 trillion dollar bill. Likewise, we weren’t included in March’s $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Left Out In the Cold

So, of $3.2 trillion dollars in massive bills passed, zero were earmarked for us.

Today, our senators voted 86 to 11 for $40 billion in aid for Ukraine. However, they voted 52 to 43 to provide $40 billion in aid to American restaurants and bars.

Last month, eleven months after the portal closed, the House voted to replenish the RRF. That left the final push to the Senate.

And today, at least 43 senators made their low opinion of us known.

Image: Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants?

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants or Bars?

by David Klemt

Abandoned bar or restaurant

The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House last Friday without the inclusion of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act.

For those keeping count—me, for instance—the RRF Replenishment Act has seen zero movement since June.

We’re now six months without RRF Replenishment progress. The RRF application portal closed on May, 24.

To put it bluntly, the House once again failed our industry.

Of the $1.7 trillion dollars in the Build Back Better Act, zero are earmarked to replenish the RRF.

Applicants in Limbo

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are at least 177,000 RRF applicants awaiting grants.

Unless the RRF is replenished, those applicants will receive nothing.

For six months now, two bills seeking $60 billion to replenish the RRF have languished. Those bills are the aforementioned RRF Replenishment Act and the ENTREE Act.

The former was introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced the latter.

Unfortunately, the chance to replenish the RRF via a unanimous consent motion was shot down in August. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to $43 billion in emergency funding, killing the RRF.

At this point, it’s difficult to take any statement of support for our industry from members of Congress seriously.

NRA Speaks Out

The same day that the Build Back Better Act passed, NRA vice president Sean Kennedy released a statement.

“We are disappointed that the House passed the Build Back Better Act without including the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act… Passing this bill without including RRF replenishment leaves thousands of small business restaurants teetering on the brink of closure,” reads Kennedy’s statement.

Kennedy also points to specific elements of the Build Back Better Act that can cause further harm to operators and our industry.

In particular, Kennedy states that the NRA “specifically asked Congress to not pass any legislation that would harm restaurants as they rebuild.” Instead, the Build Back Better Act imposes new taxes on small businesses, including restaurants and bars.

Per Kennedy, “this bill newly applies the net investment income tax (NIIT) to active business income for pass-through businesses.”

Read Kennedy’s statement in full here.

It’s possible that the Senate will make changes to the bill. And it’s possible that replenishing the RRF will be among those changes. If that happens, the bill will be sent back to the House, further delaying the crucial assistance our industry needs.

Oh, and the deadline to avoid a government shutdown is December 3.

To tell your lawmakers to replenish the RRF, click here. I know I’ve asked you to do this several times. As frustrating as it’s getting, we need to stick together and keep up the pressure.

Image: Wokandapix from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Months Pass, RRF Still not Replenished

Months Pass, RRF Replenishment Remains Uncertain

by David Klemt

Time has run out hourglass, black and white

If you’re wondering if the RRF Replenishment Act of 2021 or ENTREE Acts are making progress, you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, it appears far too many politicians on all sides are focusing on anything but our industry.

Indeed, it’s apparently more important that they score political “points” for sniping at each other on social media; engage in hyperbole and histrionics; and overall engage in brinksmanship instead of doing anything meaningful for their constituents.

Meanwhile, the industry has lost more than $300 billion in revenue over 19 months. Additionally, we’re short at least one million jobs.

So, it’s not hyperbolic to state this: It’s no longer time for Congress to act, time has very much run out.

It’s up for owners and operators, their teams, and their teams’ families.

Replenish RRF Act

As people familiar with the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will recall, the fund launched with $28.6 billion. Obviously, that was nowhere near enough funding to meet the demand for grants.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that 177,000 grant applicants are still waiting for assistance. Those applications total more than $43 billion.

Essentially, $60 billion would be printed to replenish the RRF. That’s according to the language in the RRF Replenishment Act bill.

In June, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bill.

It’s now the middle of October.

ENTREE Act

Toward the end of July, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced an alternative bill.

A ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business, Rep. Luetkemeyer proposed the Entrepreneurs Need Timely Replenishment for Eating Establishments Act on July 20.

Again, that was in July and it’s now October 25.

Known as the ENTREE Act (acronyms are fun, eh?), this bill wouldn’t just create $60 billion out of thin air.

Instead, per the text of the bill, the ENTREE Act would use unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Now What?

In early August, there was an attempt made to replenish the RRF with $48 billion of emergency funding.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with a bipartisan group of senators, sought unanimous consent to authorize the funds.

Unfortunately, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the unanimous consent motion. The measure was blocked due to Sen. Paul’s objection and the RRF didn’t receive any emergency funds.

So, now what? In August, political insiders expressed their opinion that the ENTREE Act wasn’t likely to be passed.

Meanwhile, the RRF Replenishment Act hasn’t made significant progress since it was first introduced in June.

Most recently, members of the Independent Restaurant Coalition held a press conference with Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN). During the press conference, it was pointed out that Congress was voting on infrastructure bills that didn’t contain the RRF Replenishment or ENTREE Acts.

The most that can be said currently about any “progress” is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made a promise that relief for the industry is coming, somehow, during some unknown timeframe.

Great. In the meantime, you, your family members, your friends, and your guests can contact their reps to put more pressure on them to replenish the RRF. You can also click here for more ideas from the IRC on how to get the message across that our representatives need to act now.

Perhaps reminders that every House seat and 34 Senate seats are up for re-election next year will help spur some action.

Image: Eduin Escobar from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

by David Klemt

Wad of dollar bills with red rubber band

The “tale of the tape” of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund tells a clear story: the RRF needs an injection of tens of billions of dollars.

Clearly, $28.6 was nowhere near enough to award every eligible restaurant and bar with a grant.

In fact, the RRF would need at least another $50 billion to serve all eligible applicants.

The Numbers

First, the Small Business Administration is to be commended for setting up the RRF portal, making the application process clear, and handling applications well.

However, there’s one glaring issue with the RRF and the review and awards process. I’ll get to that in the next section.

Per the National Restaurant Association, more than 362,000 applications were submitted via the RRF portal.

In total, the applications add up to $75 billion in grant requests. Again, the RRF was funded by the government with $28.6 billion. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the fund was severely underfunded.

Controversy

Last week, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. The gist of their message was that the RRF’s closure was premature. Therefore, the group concluded, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or even have the opportunity to apply for grants.

In the letter, which can be reviewed here, the authors also took shots at Democrats, the Biden Administration, and undocumented immigrants.

Setting politics aside, the announcement of the RRF’s portal closure was inarguably premature. The application process was first opened on Monday, May 3. For the first 21 days, the SBA announced that while all eligible entities could apply, only priority applicants would be processed and awarded grants.

However, the RRF portal closed to applications on Monday, May 24…21 days after it first opened. The members of Congress who penned the letter to the SBA have a point: the SBA closed the RRF portal after only operating within the priority window.

Now What?

There’s no other way to put this: The RRF needs more funding.

Essentially, it needs twice the funding it had when it was first seeded. There’s zero guarantee that Congress will address this matter, but at least a handful of lawmakers are aware of the dire situation.

Two weeks ago, the NRA launched a petition urging the government to replenish the RRF. Of course, the RRF also needs to be reopened for applications, and the application process needs to be open to all eligible applicants.

There’s no promise the petition will achieve the desired result but we must do something. Click here to sign the petition and tell Congress the RRF needs to be replenished and reopened.

Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tell the Government to Refill the RRF

Tell the Government to Refill the RRF

by David Klemt

Piggy bank wearing a face mask

The National Restaurant Association is urging restaurant, bar and other hospitality operators to sign a Restaurant Revitalization Fund petition.

Put concisely, the NRA’s petition asks the federal government to replenish the RRF.

Grants are going out and there’s no guarantee the $28.6 billion fund is enough for every eligible business. Therefore, the NRA is calling for more funds.

The Petition

Now, there is good news regarding the RRF. Per the Small Business Administration, 21,000 applicants have received $2.7 billion in grants.

However, when one considers that well over 180,000 grant applications were submitted within the first 48 hours, the $28.6 billion will more than likely run out before every eligible business receives a grant. The first 16,000 grants alone total $2 billion.

According to one source, priority applications carry a value of approximately $29 billion. Obviously, that’s more money than is in the fund.

And that’s only the value of applications receiving priority for the first 21 days. Clearly, more funding is necessary.

As the NRA’s petition states, “We are urging policymakers in Washington—from the White House to Capitol Hill—to replenish the RRF to maximize relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators. Americans can’t wait to get back into their favorite restaurant with their family and friends, and the federal government can play a key role in making that a reality.”

Click here to sign the NRA’s petition. Our industry is the hardest hit by the pandemic and every eligible business deserves funding.

It’s not that this industry isn’t grateful—it’s that hundreds of thousands of businesses are fighting to stay alive. They’ve been doing so for more than a year.

The RRF

The SBA’s RRF portal link is https://restaurants.sba.gov. Alternatively, operations can use a POS that’s an SBA partner to apply. Partner systems include Clover, NCR, Square, and Toast.

According to the SBA website, certain eligible entities will be given priority.

For the first 21 days the application process is open, priority will go to small businesses with a minimum of 51 percent ownership by women, veterans or socially disadvantaged people.

The application process should open to every applicant on Monday, May 24. For more in-depth information, operators can follow the appropriate links to review the Small Business Administration’s RRF program guide and sample application.

Applicants do not need to register with SAM.gov (System for Award Management) or provide DUNS or CAGE identifiers.

To calculate a grant amount, an applicant subtracts 2020 gross receipts from 2019 gross receipts. Applicants must deduct first-draw PPP and second-draw PPP loans. Any economic disaster loans—Economic Injury Disaster Loans, for example—are not RRF deductions.

Again, please click here to sign the NRA’s petition today.

Image: Konstantin Evdokimov on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Canadian Hospitality Needs Real Help

Canadian Hospitality Needs Real Help

by David Klemt

Man in empty restaurant and bar in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Restaurants, bars and other foodservice establishments throughout Canada need specific relief to survive, replace lost jobs, and return to profitability.

The seemingly endless and severe provincial restrictions is putting far too much strain on a struggling industry.

Yes, there are some federal provisions in place. No, they’re not enough.

Relief Efforts

Currently, the federal budget promises extensions for wage and rent subsidies. Those subsidies would extend to September 25, 2021.

However, most Canadians, per a Restaurants Canada survey, agree that the industry needs more help.

If additional industry-specific relief faces significant delays or doesn’t come at all, operators, employees, and their families will suffer.

No wonder, then, that 90 percent of Canadians (according to the Restaurants Canada survey) feel restaurants and bars need federal support to remain in business and continue paying staff.

Support Proposals

Of the approximately 98,000 foodservice establishments throughout Canada, about 10,000 are out of business. As of last month, 319,000 lost foodservice jobs had yet to be filled.

No other industry in Canada is facing such startling numbers. Add to that the fact that the industry contributes to four percent of Canada’s GDP, restaurants are the first employers for most Canadians, women comprise nearly 60 percent of the restaurant workforce, and visible minorities comprise over 30 percent of ownership and labor, and the situation grows even starker.

Clearly, industry-specific relief is necessary.

Restaurants Canada is campaigning for the following measures:

  • Extend the wage and rent subsidies through April 2022.
  • Develop subsidy requirements that more closely match the dire reality the industry continues to face.
  • Implement an employee retention and retraining credit to defray Covid-19 protocol costs.
  • Partial forgiveness for all government-backed loans.
  • Removal of merchant fees from the tax portion of restaurant bills.
  • Restore the meals and expenses to 100 percent on a temporary basis.
  • Develop and implement a culinary tourism incentive for the 2020 and 2021 tax years, using New Brunswick as a model.
  • Implement a rebate program that provides government reimbursement of $15 per person, per meal.
  • Freeze the Excise Act, including Excise Act 2021.

Act Now

It took more than a year but the industry and its supporters in America helped bring about meaningful change for restaurants, bars, and other hospitality venues.

The same can be done in Canada, and time is of the essence.

For example, the Restaurant Revival Working Group is a good start for effecting change. The group consists of government and industry representatives.

Click here to review the list of Restaurant Revival Working Group members, particularly those in government, so you can contact them.

Image: Tyler Farmer on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

RRF Applications Open Monday

RRF Applications Open Monday

by David Klemt

Modern neon sign hanging in window

In long overdue but very welcome news, the Small Business Administration’s RRF portal opens to accept applications on Monday.

Operators and business owners will be able to register this Friday, April 30.

We definitely recommend doing so to make the application process simpler and (hopefully) less frustrating on Monday, May 3.

What You Need to Know

Mainly, the following: The SBA’s RRF portal link is https://restaurants.sba.gov. It would probably be a good idea to go ahead and bookmark that site now.

Alternately, operators using an SBA POS partner to apply. Partner systems include Clover, NCR, Square, and Toast.

Per the SBA, operators will be able to register via the website beginning at 9:00 AM EST on Friday. Again, it would be wise to plan on doing exactly that.

Anything that can be done to speed up the application process opening Monday should be done.

According to the SBA website, certain eligible entities will be given priority. For the first 21 days the application process is open, priority will be granted to small businesses with a minimum of 51 percent ownership by women, veterans or socially disadvantaged people.

However, all eligible owners and operators should register on Friday and apply on Monday. Doing should, in theory, help applicants secure their grants in a more timely manner.

RRF Preparation

The SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund portal opens at noon ET on Monday. It’s best to prepare as much as possible as it’s likely applicants may find themselves in a queue depending upon traffic.

Operators can calculate their grant amounts with the following equations for applicants:

  • in operation prior to or on January 1, 2019: 2019 gross receipts minus 2020 gross receipts minus PPP loan amounts.
  • that began operations partially through 2019: (Average 2019 monthly gross receipts x 12) minus 2020 gross receipts minus PPP loan amounts.
  • who began operations on or between January 1, 2020 and March 10, 2021: Amount spent on eligible expenses between February 15, 2020 and March 11, 2021 minus 2020 gross receipts minus 2021 gross receipts (through March 11, 2021) minus PPP loan amounts
  • not yet opened but have incurred eligible expenses: Amount spent on eligible expenses between February 15, 2020 and March 11, 2021 minus 2020 gross receipts minus 2021 gross receipts (through March 11, 2021) minus PPP loan amounts

Note: Entities who began operations partially through 2019 may elect, at their own discretion, to use either calculation two, three or four above.

For further guidance and to prepare as much as possible, please click here for the SBA’s RRF guide, and click here to review the sample application.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition also has a handy checklist posted to Instagram:

Good luck!

Image: Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Grilled Cheese Day: Mastering the Melt

Grilled Cheese Day: Mastering the Melt

by David Klemt

Person pulling apart melty grilled cheese sandwich

There are few comfort foods more popular than a well-made, melty grilled cheese sandwich.

It’s such a perfect comfort food that it has its own national holiday in the United States.

National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day is April 12 in the US. From what I’ve read, Canada also gets in on the fun.

Melt Mastery

If you want to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches, not just any cheese will do.

The saying goes that you can’t squeeze blood from a stone. Well, you also can’t squeeze a melt out of a hard cheese cheese.

So, you want to make one of the comfiest of comfort foods. Cheese selection matters. Here’s what to consider:

  • Moisture content. Hard cheeses have very little water content and therefore don’t fully liquify.
  • Fat content. Cheeses with a high fat content melt very well.
  • Acidity. Cheeses that are highly acidic get stringy when melted. Acid-curded cheeses (vegan, many goat cheeses) don’t melt much, if at all.
  • Age. If you want melty cheese that results in that visually appealing cheese pull, look for fresh and unaged cheeses.

Melt Mates

It’s tempting to throw the cheese drawer at a sandwich. If one cheese is great, more cheeses are even better, right?

Wrong. Certain cheeses melt together better than others. Consider this:

There are restaurants that have grilled cheese eating challenges. Complete such a challenge, bask in glory forever. The reason this particular challenge must be completed quickly is melting points. As the sandwich cools, the cheeses congeal. The harder, lower-fat cheeses make it much more difficult to finish the admittedly ridiculous challenge sandwich.

So, which challenges melt the best and tend to play well together? Check out the list below:

  • American
  • Blue Cheese
  • Brie (works particularly well with fruit slices, jam and aged Cheddar)
  • Cheddar (look for younger versions for the best melt)
  • Colby
  • Comté
  • Fontina
  • Gruyère (again, younger versions tend to be better for grilled cheese sandwiches)
  • Monterey Jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Muenster
  • Pepper Jack
  • Provolone
  • Raclette
  • Taleggio

Become Legend

Comfort foods have become big-time revenue generators during the pandemic in America and Canada. There’s no reason to believe that’s going to change any time soon.

Master your melt and your sandwiches will become legend. Master the sides, dips and other accoutrements that enhance your legendary sandwich(es) and you’ll become a grilled cheese god.

Image: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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