Restaurants facing changing seasons and strapped for cash

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A little over a year ago, Adam Rammel was struggling to find workers. The owner of a local craft beer bar, Brewfontaine in Bellefontaine, Ohio, was preparing to open his new events and dining business, and the tight job market made it difficult to find talent.Fast forward to this fall, millions of people are out of work and talent is no longer a battle. Instead, Rammel’s biggest challenge will be a Midwestern winter like no other due to the pandemic.

Rammel switched from exploiting the events space, making it an upscale restaurant called The Syndicate instead. Meanwhile, his bar will function without the alfresco dining options that have kept him afloat for the past several months. Beyond that, Rammel faces a 22 hour curfew for the last call serving drinks and operates with limited seating capacity to meet social distancing requirements.

“The past six months have been some of the most difficult I hope we will ever face,” said Rammel. “We fight every day to stay afloat and survive. People prefer to eat out these days. We’ll try to get creative, I watched [heated] igloos and everything in order to be able to use this space in winter. Winter is our biggest fear right now. ”

New data from the National Restaurant Association highlights how badly the industry has been hit by the pandemic, with estimated sales of $ 165 billion lost from March through July and more than 8 million workers have been laid off or dismissed at the height of the epidemic. The industry group predicts that 15% of all restaurants and bars, or some 100,000 establishments, are not open for any reason. It remains to be seen how many of these closures become permanent.

“We are at an inflection point in the industry. First, the seasons are changing, we’ve been limping in the high season and are about to enter the low season. We are doing this as the industry continues to be at its weakest point. , never, ”said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the association. “And so far, the federal response has been to provide eight weeks of federal funding for a pandemic that has brought this industry to its knees for six months now. ”

The group’s survey of more than 3,500 members finds sales have fallen by about a third, and nearly 40% of operators say their restaurants will likely be bankrupt in six months if economic conditions persist. As sales declined, 60% of respondents also said they spent more on operational costs as a percentage of sales.

“The average restaurant has 16 days of cash,” Kennedy said. “It’s just simple math that something needs to be done. ”

Despite numerous job losses across the industry as a whole in recent months, publicly traded restaurant names have embarked on a recruiting frenzy, with consumers opting for digital ordering and contactless experiences. Domino’s, Papa John’s, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Dunkin ‘, Wingstop and many more have said they are looking for half a million workers together as businesses thrive. The National Restaurant Association survey finds that nearly 70% of operators have added curbside take-out and about a third have added third-party delivery to boost their business while facing limited operations.

Small businesses, beyond those in the restaurant industry, are in dire straits as they wait for Washington to move on to a next round of aid. Recent data from the National Federation of Independent Business shows that one in five businesses say they will have to close if economic conditions do not improve in the next six months. The advocacy group’s survey found that 84% of respondents used their entire paycheck protection program loan, with the rest likely not far behind. Forty-seven percent of PPP loan borrowers expect to need additional help in the next 12 months, according to a survey of 562 members.

Rammel spent his $ 160,000 in P3 funds and his Small Business Administration disaster loan, and said a next wave of aid was crucial.

“Independent mom-pop restaurants are the lifeblood and character of our small towns,” he said. “We need all the help we can get. “

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