Foodservice

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Restaurant Revitalization Fund Passes

Restaurant Revitalization Fund Passes

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building

Congress has once again voted to pass targeted relief for restaurants and bars.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which includes the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Passes, made it through Congress by a vote of 219 to 212.

All Republicans and two Democrats voted against the $1.9 billion bill, which now goes to the Senate.

Now What?

After a year of being mostly left to fend for ourselves—save for the flawed Paycheck Protection Program—operators may finally receive some relief.

The $300-per-week federal boost to unemployment, which the American Rescue Plan Act increases to $400 per week, expires on March 14. There’s some pressure on the Senate to pass the bill so it can be signed into law before or by that date.

However, we’ve been down this road before: Congress has voted in favor of a bill that contains relief for restaurants, bars and other foodservice and drinking establishments, the Senate goes a different direction, and the Congressional victory turns to ashes in our hands rather than becoming law.

Democrats control the House. A Democrat sits at the Resolute Desk. And while the 50-50 Senate is “controlled” by Democrats since Vice President Kamala Harris can break tie votes, the party can’t afford any defections if they hope to pass the American Rescue Plan.

Once again, targeted relief isn’t a certainty.

What’s in the Plan?

In short, not the RESTAURANTS Act. The American Rescue Plan provides a fraction of the $120 billion for which the industry has been campaigning for a year now.

Instead, a $25 billion grant program called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) has been carved out for restaurants, bars and other eligible providers of food and drink.

There’s another $15 billion allocated for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advance payments, and $1.25 billion for shuttered venue operators.

Just $7.25 billion would be pumped into the PPP and the application deadline wouldn’t be extended beyond March 31. This is likely because the PPP has disbursed over $662 billion in just under a year, and there’s still roughly $140 billion available.

In addition, the current bill includes $1,400 direct stimulus payments for individuals earning up to $75,000 or $2,800 for married couples earning up to $150,000. Payments would phase out completely for individuals earning $100,000 or married couples earning $200,000.

What’s the Restaurant Revitalization Fund?

The RRF carves out $25 billion for restaurants, bars, saloons, inns, taverns, lounges, tasting rooms, brewpubs, taprooms, food trucks, food carts, food stands, caterers, and eligible providers of food and/or drink.

Grants, should the bill pass the Senate and be signed into law, will be equal to pandemic-related revenue loss as calculated by subtracting 2020 revenue from 2019 revenue. Eligible entities could receive of up to $10 million, or a physical location could receive a maximum grant of $5 million.

RRF grants are required to be used for:

  • payroll costs;
  • principal and interest payments on a mortgage, excluding prepayments on the principal;
  • rent payments, excluding prepayments;
  • utilities;
  • supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning materials;
  • F&B expenses within the eligible entity’s scope of “normal business practice” before the covered period: February 15, 2020, through December 31, 2021 (or another date as determined by the Small Business Administration);
  • maintenance expenses, including construction accommodating outdoor seating and walls, floods, deck surfaces, furniture, fixtures, and equipment;
  • covered supplier costs;
  • operational expenses;
  • paid sick leave; and
  • any other expenses the SBA determines to be essential to maintaining the eligible entity.

The SBA would be responsible for awarding $20 billion of the $25 billion fund in “an equitable manner to eligible entities of different sizes based on annual gross receipts.” The remaining $5 billion would be set aside, per the bill in its current form, for eligible applicants with 2019 gross receipts of $500,000 or less.

Click here to find your senators and urge them to pass the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Image: Jens Junge from Pixabay 

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

I Tried the Mask Made for & by Hospitality

I Tried the Mask Made for & by Hospitality

by David Klemt

Wearing a mask is part of everyday life, particularly for hospitality industry professionals.

DCBL Masks was designed by hospitality professionals for the hospitality industry, born out of their reverence for the workers putting themselves at risk so the communities they serve can retain a semblance of their normal lives.

Their first mask, the X-1, is intended to provide solutions to the problems presented by other face coverings.

Thoughtful Design

One problem with the standard masks and face coverings we’ve grown accustomed to is their tendency to muffle voices. One of the driving design elements behind the DCBL X-1 is the projection of the wearer’s voice.

The X-1 is a three-piece mask and its second layer is what sets it apart from others. The middle layer is sound-enhancing, sculpted foam that allows the wearer’s voice to carry. No more going hoarse from yelling, no more (or less, at least) repeating oneself, no more guests leaning in or stepping closer to hear what’s being said (hopefully).

That second layer is also intended to improve breathability. The inside layer’s design provides an air pocket for similar breathing functionality. It’s also made of natural bamboo so it’s soft, moisture-wicking and cooling, and it receives an antimicrobial treatment.

The X-1’s outer layer is polyester and resists dust and moisture while also protecting against UV rays. There are two flexible “suspension” systems, one for the nose and one to seal the bottom of the mask. Straps are Spandex, ear loops are adjustable, and there’s a clasp system so the wearer can choose how to secure the mask to their head.

Designed by Industry Pros

DCBL is the brainchild of industry veterans Michael Tipps and Homan Taghdiri. Tipps and Taghdiri are the co-founders of both DCBL Masks and Invictus Hospitality, a consulting agency headquartered in Los Angeles.

Tipps boasts over two decades’ experience in hospitality. He got his start in South Florida and has worked every front-of-house position. His journey through hospitality helped him gain perspective regarding the challenges inherent to the industry, and he eventually co-founded Invictus.

Taghdiri worked in hospitaity for 13 years before becoming a licensed attorney in California. He has worked every position in the industry. While he no longer studies law, when he did, he specialized in real estate, business and the hospitality industry.

DCBL’s Mission

There are three main goals DCBL seeks to achieve: Protection, projection, and connection. I’ve explained how they achieve the first two goals.

If the first goal isn’t realized, goals two and three don’t matter. If DCBL whiffs on the second goal, the third is unachievable. The X-1 seeks to make conversation easier when wearing masks so people can feel more connected. Being separated by masks, distance, barriers, and staying at home is detrimental to us all. The DCBL X-1 addresses that issue.

As the DCBL website says, “Staying safe and making a living shouldn’t be as challenging as it has been.” I feel the brand accomplishes their deceptively simple goals.

Impressions

First things first, I didn’t receive my X-1 in exchange for this post or any monetary compensation. I was genuinely curious about the mask and placed an order for two.

My masks arrived in a black bubble mailer, making them seem a little cooler from the start. They were each sealed in their own packet with an insert that explained the three layers, different methods for securing the X-1, machine washing instructions, and more.

DCBL X-1 mask packaging

In my experience, the mask felt soft and comfortable before even putting it on. The X-1 feels like a well-constructed, high-quality mask.

DCBL X-1 Mask

I have to say, I dig the interior layer. Not only is it soft and comfortable, the design detail is a nice departure from the white, black or pale blue to which we’ve all become accustomed:

Inside layer of DCBL X-1 face mask

It’s comfortable on my face and it allows me to speak comfortably, clearly and loudly no extra effort. I wore mine around my place and while writing this article. The ear loops are comfortable for me but the X-1 can be worn easily with an ear loop extension or toward the top of the head with the clasp system.

My glasses did fog slightly at first, but that became a non-issue after I adjusted the nose bridge suspension area.

Other people’s mileage may very, of course, but I feel that the mask delivers on DCBL’s mission statement: Be Heard.

To learn more and order the X-1, click here. connect with DCBL on Instagram and Facebook. Contact hello@dcblmasks.com for wholesale orders.

Disclaimer: The DCBL X-1 is not a medical-grade mask and is not intended as a replacement for medical-grade equipment or other recommended measures to stop the community spread of any viruses.

Images taken by author.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

This Generation is Most Likely to Dine In

This Generation is Most Likely to Dine In

by David Klemt

Chef preparing burgers inside restaurant

The National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report revealed the generation most likely to dine in-person at a restaurant.

That is, of course, if such restaurant service—from quick-service to fine dining—is permitted where they’re located.

So, do you have a guess? Because we have the answer.

Most Likely to Dine In

Per an NRA survey, Gen Z is most eager to return to in-person restaurant dining.

However, it’s more of a simple majority that’s after a restaurant experience beyond delivery, takeout and curbside pickup than an overwhelming one.

Just 53 percent of adult members of Gen Z surveyed by the NRA are willing to dine inside restaurants over the course of the next few months.

Overall, 67 percent of Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer adults would like to engage with restaurants like they did before the pandemic. That’s not a huge stretch, of course; we all want to return to normal and put Covid-19 behind us.

Still, the survey results make it clear there’s demand for in-person dining. The convenience of interacting with and ordering from restaurants is here to stay. However, that convenience hasn’t replaced the desire to dine (and socialize) out.

So, Who’s Most Likely to Order In?

You’d be forgiven for assuming the answer to this question is also Gen Z. After all, just about every development regarding technology and how people engage with the world has been laid at their feet.

When Gen Z isn’t being accused of “killing” a tradition, sense of normalcy or an entire industry, the finger is pointed at Millennials.

Well, it turns out the usual finger-pointing suspects are the consumers most likely to order from restaurants.

According to the NRA’s report, 81 percent of Boomers and 80 percent of Gen X will continue to order from restaurants, at least for the next few months.

Put it All Together

At least for the next several months, the industry’s recovery will hinge on the full-strength return of in-person service and the convenience of delivery and takeout.

In other words, some consumers are champing at the bit to once again make restaurant visits a regular part of their lives while others plan to proceed with caution. Successful restaurant operations will maintain a mixture of traditional and digitally-driven services.

Nearly 90 percent of adults surveyed by the NRA say they enjoy going out to restaurants and that doing so with family and friends is a better way to spend leisure time than cooking at home.

“Restaurants are the cornerstone of our communities, and our research shows a clear consumer desire to enjoy restaurants on-premises more than they have been able to during the pandemic. We’ve also found that even as the vaccine becomes more available and more social occasions return to restaurants, consumers will continue to desire expanded off-premises options going forward. Both will continue to be key for industry growth,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research and Knowledge Group, NRA, in a press release announcing the Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry. “With more than half of adults saying that restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle, we are confident that, with time, the industry is positioned for successful recovery.”

The NRA predicts foodservice sales to reach $731 billion in 2021, an 11 percent increase over 2020. Unfortunately, that estimate is about 15 percent lower than sales generated in 2019.

Still, that’s a reason to be optimistic. Consumers are pent-up and eager to make restaurants a significant part of their lives once again.

Nobody is more eager, evidently, than Gen Z.

Image: Jesson Mata on Unsplash

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

On the Menu for 2021: The RESTAURANTS Act

On the Menu for 2021: The RESTAURANTS Act

by David Klemt

Much like restaurants themselves, the RESTAURANTS Act has faced multiple starts and stops.

The bill received huge bipartisan support in 2020, landing dozens upon dozens of co-sponsors.

However, that widespread support didn’t materialize into any actual progress—the bill was never signed into law. That must change now.

A Long Road

It’s February 2021. The House and Senate must work together to provide the targeted relief of the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act.

The RESTAURANTS Act was first introduced to the House of Representatives on June 15, 2020. The bill was eventually included in the revised Heroes Act, which was passed by the House on October 1, 2020 on a vote of 214 to 207.

Unfortunately, that bill was “dead on arrival” and didn’t receive a vote on the Senate floor. A $900 billion stimulus package was negotiated in December of 2020 but the RESTAURANTS Act wasn’t included in it.

It has been more than long enough—it’s beyond time for action.

Where are We Now?

Throughout all of this, from inception to current status, the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) has never faltered in their campaign to ensure this industry receives the targeted relief it so desperately needs.

It’s wise given how the number of times we’ve been let down by our elected officials to be guarded and cautiously optimistic about the RESTAURANTS Act finally being signed into law this month.

On February 5, Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) formally (re)introduced the RESTAURANTS Act to the 117th Congress.

What’s in the Bill?

In its current form, the RESTAURANTS Act:

  • establishes a $120 billion relief fund for foodservice and drinking establishments;
  • makes groups that operate up to 20 units eligible for relief from that fund;
  • provides operators access to grants of up to $10 million for eligible expenses; and
  • makes the grants retroactive to February 15, 2020 and ends them eight months after the legislation is signed into law.

New provisions in the February 2021 RESTAURANTS Act include:

  • updates to the award calculation based on annual loss from calendar year 2020 instead of quarterly;
  • grant eligibility for new restaurants that opened after January 1, 2020;
  • paid sick leave as an eligible expense for employees, with a bonus amount to cover the cost of voluntarily providing ten days of sick leave to employees;
  • providing the Department of the Treasury the discretion to help reduce waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • imposing reporting obligations on the Department of the Treasury to share who gets loans and demographic information about recipients; and
  • ensuring that restaurants can use both the Employee Retention Tax Credit and the RESTAURANTS Act grant program, provided they are not used for the same expenses.

What’s Next?

We must all act to give the RESTAURANTS Act the best chance of becoming law. We have been patient for long enough.

We must let our representatives know we expect them to pledge their support for this bill formally.

The IRC provides several methods for ensuring our representatives understand they need to co-sponsor and pass the RESTAURANTS Act:

  1. Email your representatives and ask them for their co-sponsorship.
  2. Call your representatives directly and tell them why restaurants and bars need the RESTAURANTS Act to be voted on, passed, and signed into law. This is the number to dial: (202) 224-3121. The IRC has provided talking points here.
  3. Share the graphic below on your social channels and encourage your followers to also contact their representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the RESTAURANTS Act. Use the following caption when posting: It’s official: the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 is on the menu in both chambers of Congress. Call your representatives today and tell them that independent restaurants, bars, and workers can’t wait any longer for direct relief: 202-224-3121 #SaveRestaurants

All of that will take less than 20 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to help finally get this industry the support and relief it needs.

The RESTAURANTS Act is needed to prevent more permanent restaurant and bar closures, and to revitalize the industry. The road to recovery is a long one and getting this bill signed into law is a major step forward.

Please email and call your representatives. Please share the post and caption above on your social media. Please help save the restaurants, bars, and millions of people they employ.

Image:

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

2021 Technomic Outlook: United States

2021 Technomic Outlook: United States

by David Klemt

Technomic has been providing the foodservice industry with valuable insights on a global level for 50 years.

The research and consulting firm has been one of my go-to information sources for at least a decade.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed American food delivery trends from multiple sources. This week, I’m taking a look at Technomic’s foodservice predictions for the US.

Unprecedented and Unpredictable

Before we proceed, keep this in mind: predictions are best guesses. Technomic’s approach is scientific and data-driven but it’s important to approach any prediction with caution.

As the firm itself points out in their 2021 foodservice report, the global pandemic has plunged the industry deep into unprecedented territory.

It seems the only thing predictable about Covid-19 in relation to restaurants, bars and other hospitality businesses is that this industry will continue to bear the brunt of closures and restrictions.

That said, I trust Technomic to lead the industry through unprecedented and unpredictable moments in time.

7 Key Trends

Technomic has made seven predictions for foodservice in the US.

  1. Streamlined menus. Technomic expects the trend toward reducing SKUs to continue. However, that may lead to innovative and healthy items replaced removed items. Leafy greens, environmentally-friendly, and health-conscience items such as immune boosters are expected to be menued.
  2. Tech is the future. This prediction can be summed up quickly: If it’s a tech-based, can improve operations and help a brand differentiate itself from others, the industry is going to implement it.
  3. Top three cuisines. Chinese, Italian and Mexican food and drink are expected by Technomic to perform the best in 2021, particularly if operators move beyond the classics and incorporate lesser-known ingredients. However, Technomic expects more interest in West African and Caribbean cuisine.
  4. Social justice. Operators will have to be transparent about their stances on social justice issues and make meaningful statements—hashtags won’t cut it with younger consumers.
  5. Umami will reign supreme. Technomic uses the phrase “new-mami” to describe “intense, mouthwatering fare.” Think fruit vinegars beyond apple, candy cap mushrooms, seafood meatballs, and so much more.
  6. Communal concepts must adapt. Food halls, eatertainment concepts, and venues with communal seating will have to reimagine their spaces and how guests use them during an era characterized by social distancing, constant sanitizing, and off-premise business models. Traditional guest experiences may return but there’s no telling when that will happen.
  7. Revenue recovery. Technomic expects the industry to start recovering in 2021. However, sales levels are unlikely to reach those of 2019.

Bring it all Together

Chasing trends can be a fool’s errand. Not every prediction made by Technomic will work for every restaurant or bar in Canada.

Just like Technomic collects and analyzes industry data, operators must review their guest, sales and operations data to make informed decisions. This is another reason it’s crucial to own the guest journey in its entirety.

Click here to view Technomic’s “2021 U.S. Trend Outlook” webinar.

Image: Justin Cron on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

2021 Technomic Outlook: Canada

2021 Technomic Outlook: Canada

by David Klemt

Technomic has been providing the foodservice industry with valuable insights on a global level for five decades.

The research and consulting firm has been one of my go-to information sources for at least ten years.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Canadian food delivery trends from multiple sources. This week, I’m taking a look at Technomic’s foodservice predictions for Canada.

Unprecedented and Unpredictable

First things first: predictions are best guesses. Technomic’s approach is scientific and data-driven but it’s important to approach any prediction with caution.

As the firm itself points out in their 2021 foodservice report, the global pandemic has thrown the industry into unprecedented territory.

It seems the only predictable element related to Covid-19 is that restaurants, bars and other hospitality businesses will bear the brunt of closures and restrictions.

That said, I trust Technomic to lead the industry through unpredictable, unprecedented moments in time.

5 Key Trends

Technomic has made five predictions for foodservice in Canada.

  1. 2021 will represent the start of financial recovery for foodservice. Technomic predicts moderate sales growth this year, below levels of 2019. However, limited-service restaurants are expected to perform better than their counterparts and return to 2019 revenue levels. Not surprisingly, Technomic expects full-service restaurants to be the most challenged.
  2. Operators will make their stances on social issues known. Multiple sources say today’s consumers want transparency from the brands they support. They want to know what company’s believe about climate change, food insecurity, social inequalities, diversity and hiring practices, fair pay for employees, and other issues. Technomic expects more operators to “double down” on transparency.
  3. On-premise operations will invest in off-premise business models. Again, multiple sources have reported that significant percentages of consumers are uncertain or uncomfortable about returning to restaurants and bars for in-person dining and drinking. Technomic expects operators to invest in smaller dining rooms so they can offer more limited-contact and contactless options to guests: walk-up ordering windows, multiple drive-thru lanes, designated curbside pickup locations, and in-store pickup and grab-and-go stations. The firm also expects more operators to embrace first-party/direct delivery, along with technologies like mobile ordering and geofencing.
  4. Comfort, quirkiness and indulgence. Technomic expects comfort foods to continue to perform well and encourages operators to get creative—even quirky—with this category. They caution that health will still be a focus of many guests and suggest that some operators will “disguise better-for-you meals as indulgent.”
  5. Our home and native land. Hyperlocality will play a crucial role in driving traffic given the travel restrictions imposed throughout Canada. Operators will likely forge relationships with local farms to attract local visitors to their venues. Technomic expects to see grassroots movements promoting support for small regional chains and local independent operations to gain traction.

Bring it all Together

Chasing trends can be a fool’s errand. Not every prediction made by Technomic will work for every restaurant or bar in Canada.

Just like Technomic collects and analyzes industry data, operators must review their guest, sales and operations data to make informed decisions. This is another reason it’s crucial to own the guest journey in its entirety.

Click here to view Technomic’s “2021 Canadian Trends Outlook” webinar.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Foodservice Workers Recommended for Phase 1c of Covid-19 Vaccines

Foodservice Workers Recommended for Phase 1c of Covid-19 Vaccines

by David Klemt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that foodservice workers be included in phase 1c of the Covid-19 vaccine plan.

On Sunday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met to vote on phases 1b and 1c.

The committee identified those next in line for the two Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna as “frontline essential workers” and people aged 75 years and older (phase 1b), and “other essential workers” (phase 1c).

Phase 1a consists of 24 million healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities (LTCF), and staff members who work at such facilities.

An estimated 49 million people are included in phase 1b. Roughly 30 million people in this group are categorized as frontline essential workers. Those in education (teachers, daycare workers, support staff), First Responders, United States Postal Service workers, corrections officers, grocery store workers, food and agriculture workers, those in manufacturing, and people who work in public transit will be inoculated in phase 1b.

People aged 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, those aged 65 to 74, and the other essential workers have been voted into phase 1c. Foodservice workers are among the roughly 57 million included in this phase, along with the media; construction workers; those who work in shelter and housing; transportation and logistics workers; those in finance, IT, communications, and the legal sector; people who work in the water and water waste industries; public safety workers; and the energy sector.

A lone dissent among the 13-1 vote came from Dr. Henry Bernstein. The doctor felt that, based on the available science, people aged 65 to 74 should have been included in phase 1b.

It’s important to note that states can go against the CDC’s “Phased Allocation of Covid-19 Vaccines” recommendations. For example, Governor Ron DeSantis has stated that the vaccines, which are not yet available to the general public, will go to people aged 70 and up in Florida in phase 1b. In Texas, those aged 65 years and older and people with certain chronic illnesses are said to be the state’s phase 1b priorities.

Other states may follow suit and deviate from the CDC’s phased allocations.

Image: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

“More help is on the way.” But not for restaurants and bars.

“More help is on the way.” But not for restaurants and bars.

by David Klemt

Speaking about the economic relief package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) struck what can be generously described as tainted altruism.

“More help is on the way,” said McConnell on the Senate floor on Sunday. He also took the time to attempt to absolve Republican leadership of any blame for the glacier-paced movement forward on relief, laying the fault at Democrats’ feet.

To be blunt, both parties have failed the American people and small businesses in terms of providing federal assistance during the pandemic.

After months of inaction on relief—with the exception of a Congressional vote in September that failed to pass in the Senate—and weeks of discussions and partisan sniping, negotiators finally managed to zero in on a bill with a strong likelihood of becoming law.

Yet sifting through remarks made by some politicians regarding pandemic relief over the course of the past several months, variants of the word “prompt” were bandied about.

If the package passes—which is expected to happen later today—members of Congress and Senate will no doubt perform self-congratulatory victory laps for finally doing their jobs after months of failing to do much of anything in the way of relief. Meanwhile, millions of Americans will continue to face life-altering challenges, reaching out for lifelines that are simply not there.

Included in the package are a number of details identified as “key” to both political parties:

  • The ability for businesses that had received Paycheck Protection Program loans which had been forgiven to deduct the costs said loans covered on their federal tax returns.
  • Speaking of the PPP, it will be reopened with over $284 billion intended for small businesses.
  • $12 billion in available PPP funds for minority-owned and “very small” businesses.
  • $15 billion made available in PPP funds specifically for independent movie theaters, live music venues, and cultural institutions like museums.
  • $600 stimulus checks for qualifying adults (and each child in a household) who earned $75,000 or less in 2019. The amount would be reduced for people who earned more. Those who made $99,000 or more last year are not expected to receive a stimulus check.
  • A $300 boost to unemployment benefits for 11 months, with a possible implementation date of December 27.
  • Gig and contract workers enrolled in the PUA or PEUC programs can expect the same $300 boost to their benefits for 11 to 13 weeks.
  • The deadline to spend billions of dollars made available to cities and states via the CARES Act is expected to be extended from the end of this year to be an entire year.
  • $25 billion in emergency assistance for renters.
  • A moratorium on evictions expected to be extended through the end of January.

What’s not in the package expected to be rushed through Congress? Hundreds of billions of dollars in state and local aid Democrats wanted, liability shields for corporations Republicans wanted, the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act, or the $240 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund.

Despite McConnell’s declaration that federal assistance is on the way, the economic relief plan leaves an industry that employs millions of American workers and contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation’s GDP (four percent before the pandemic) to fend for itself.

Guy Fieri, in all seriousness, has done more for more unemployed restaurant workers than the government, raising more than $21 million in relief funds in under two months.

The hospitality jobs lost due to Covid-19 aren’t expected to return. With more than 110,000 restaurants closed—and counting—the economic impact will be felt nationwide and, in all probability, have global ramifications.

The PPP turned out to be an absolute farce: billions of dollars went to businesses that are anything but small by definition. There’s little reason to believe the process will improve much (if at all) this time around.

And while restaurants and bars have been crucial to nurturing community, connections and culture since inception, they’re clearly not considered culturally relevant institutions by politicians.

With Congress facing an uphill battle in terms of drafting the language for the relief bill and then voting on it, expecting our elected officials to propose, negotiate, draft and vote on a bill for the hospitality industry seems foolish. That means the earliest the industry can expect help—which seems exceedingly unlikely to ever materialize—is in late February of 2021.

Apparently restaurants, bars, and the foodservice professionals they employ aren’t key to politicians on any side of the aisle. Well, not until they need venues to host their campaign fundraisers, that is.

Image: Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

One Fair Wage Survey Results: Foodservice Professionals on Front Lines of Infection Risk and Hostility

One Fair Wage Survey Results: Foodservice Professionals on Front Lines of Infection Risk and Hostility

by David Klemt

Over a three-week period, One Fair Wage (OFW) surveyed 1,675 foodservice workers in five states and Washington, D.C.

The survey was initially sent to more than 61,000 applicants to the One Fair Wage Emergency Fund in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and D.C. By November 9, 2,621 respondents had completed the OFW survey online. A total of 1,575 indicated they were currently employed and an additional 100 surveys were completed by phone.

One of the key takeaways of the survey is at once disturbing and unacceptable but not, infuriatingly, shocking. Not only did significant percentages of respondents report lax Covid-19 protocol training and enforcement along with increasingly hostile guests, close to half revealed “a dramatic increase in sexual harassment” since the pandemic struck.

Increased Sexual Harassment

Forty-one percent of survey respondents noted a marked shift in the frequency that guests are subjecting foodservice workers to unwanted sexualized comments. A quarter said they had personally experienced or witnessed “a significant” change in this manifestation of sexual harassment.

An analysis by OFW of the comments shared by respondents reveals the impact that this increase in sexual harassment has on the recipients. The comments have a negative effect on workers’ sense of safety in the workplace, financial security, physical health, and emotional and psychological health.

Of the 25 percent of the female respondents who had personally experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, 43 percent reported that comments were directly tied to social distancing and wearing masks, two pillars of Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

Identified by OFW as a “mild example” of the unwanted comments being made, “Take your mask off I want to see what’s underneath,” provides insight into the overall “theme” of the harassment being made. Many guests engaging in harassment appear to be sexualizing covered noses and mouths. Indeed, other comments support this analysis:

  • “Come on, sweetie. Lemme see that pretty face under there. Take it off for me, will you? Just a quick flash.”
  • “Please take the mask off, I want to see your lips.”
  • “Take off your mask so I know how much to tip you.”

When foodservice pros rebuff these unwanted advances, the responses tend toward hostility and smaller—or no—tips. In short order, these types of aggressors have found a way to weaponize the guest-server power dynamic and seemingly fetishize required Covid-19 protocols.

Increased Hostility

Whereas close to half of OFW survey respondents reported increased sexual harassment, more than three-quarters reported increased hostility from guests.

A staggering 78 percent of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed increased hostility as a response to following and enforcing Covid-19 protocols. Almost 60 percent said these incidents were occurring on a weekly basis.

Again, the power dynamic comes into play. Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported hesitation in enforcing Covid-19 protocols for fear doing so would affect their tips negatively. That concern is rooted in reality: 65 percent of respondents said they were tipped less on a weekly basis after enforcing health and safety protocols.

More than 80 percent said tips have decreased since the pandemic took hold, with 65 percent reporting that decrease to be 50 percent or more.

Impact of Subminimum Wage

One Fair Wage, as their name suggests and their mission clearly states, advocates and campaigns for all employers in America to pay full minimum wage. The organization also calls for tipped workers to receive full minimum wage plus their tips.

Per OFW, service workers—including people who work in salons and airports—are twice as likely to require food stamps to get by when compared to the rest of the workforce in the United States. Foodservice workers, however, are subjected to more sexual harassment than those workers in any other industry. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency, has identified the restaurant industry as the sector with the most sexual harassment charges filed by women.

This isn’t a digression. The OFW’s mission for a full minimum plus tips for tipped workers would have a direct impact on community health and safety. Infectious disease experts have warned that Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic with which we’ll have to contend. According to a report released by the CDC in September, the risk of contracting Covid-19 doubles for adults after dining inside a restaurant.

Were all service workers working for a full, living minimum wage, they’d likely be less concerned with incurring a guest’s wrath in the form of a reduced tip or no tip at all. The OFW survey findings that foodservice pros are being harassed to remove their masks or not socially distance—risking the health and safety of themselves and guests, then of family and friends, and therefore the community—and that 58 percent are reluctant to enforce Covid-19 protocols out of concern for their tips illustrates, in part, how subminimum wage for tipped workers can impact the health and safety of communities overall.

The pandemic has made foodservice workers and others who work with the public, by default, Covid-19 protocol enforcers. Clearly, significant swaths of the public feel zero compunction when it comes to responding with hostility, threats, harassment, and refusal to comply.

It’s also clear that guests who react with hostility and intimidation when employees are enforcing officially mandated health and safety requirements lest their employer face fines, the suspension of their business and/or liquor license, or any other form of punishment that puts their employment at risk won’t hesitate to wield the guest-server power dynamic as a weapon. That weapon can ultimately endanger an entire community.

The Good News

A mere ten percent of survey respondents reported their employers instruct employees to follow all Covid-19 health and safety protocols on a consistent basis, and just 31 percent of respondents said their employer follows all such protocols.

Those are startling numbers since ten percent of respondents said they had contracted Covid-19, 88 percent said they knew someone had contracted the infection, 44 percent reported that at least one coworker had contracted Covid-19, and a depressing 42 percent of those who reported knowing someone who had contracted the illness had died from it.

However, there were some positive pieces of data shared by survey respondents:

  • 92 percent reported their employers require all workers to wear masks.
  • 86 percent reported their employers require all workers to wash hands frequently.
  • 86 percent reported their employers require tables and chairs be wiped down and sanitized between uses.
  • 78 percent reported their employers provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • 75 percent reported that a supervisor has told them they will have their back if they tell a guest or coworker to put on their mask whenever they’re within six feet of them.

In a perfect world, those percentages would all be one hundred. This isn’t a perfect world and there’s obviously major room for improvement. Management must step up in this time of crisis and uncertainty and embrace true leadership:

  • Respect the fact that employees are putting themselves at risk every shift. Put people first.
  • Avoid putting the bottom line ahead of health and safety.
  • Create and enforce a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy—for employees and guests. Support employees when they report sexual harassment.
  • Communicate clearly and consistently. Transparency and targeted training must be priorities.
  • Display integrity when making decisions and enforcing rules.

Foodservice and hospitality industry professionals are on the front lines, sacrificing their own health and safety—and that of the people inside their bubble—to keep the industry afloat. Ownership and management need to protect them.

Read the entire OFW report here.

Image: engin akyurt on Unsplash

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