From the Desk Banner
During the last few weeks, I have spoken with several reporters from a variety of publications that cover our industry. As a part of the interviews, they often ask the expected questions about declining sales and job losses related to the start/stop reopening pattern we’re seeing. They inquire about the steps we’re taking as an industry to keep our customers and employees safe, and they want to know what it is going to take for the industry to rebound. Without hesitation, I tell these reporters that at the National Restaurant Association and Educational Foundation, supporting the industry’s comeback is our number one priority, and government, businesses, and customers all play a role.
Yesterday, the Association released its Blueprint for Restaurant Revival. This plan of action outlines how the federal government can not only ensure our short-term survival as an industry, but also includes a long-term plan to enable us to continue to be the cornerstone of every community. Among several key tax proposals, the Blueprint reinforces the need for a restaurant recovery fund to provide structured relief to foodservice establishments, a second installment of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), expenses paid with a forgiven PPP loan to be tax deductible, and calls for more funding and improved terms for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Many restaurants are not even breaking even right now but continue to stay open for their communities and employees. It’s important to know that when restaurants ask for assistance from the government, they are asking for help to survive the current environment, not thrive.
The Blueprint also calls on Congress to help restaurants do what they do best: serve others. To do that, we must keep our workforce healthy and at work through priority access to COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution as well as enacting payroll tax relief for essential workers, including restaurant employees. We are proud to be the cornerstone of every community, and this Blueprint asks Congress to help us continue to supply meals to vulnerable populations by providing federal funding to programs that connect state and local agencies with restaurants that can feed their communities. In my role, I am often asked what people can do to help.  Please consider contacting your member of Congress and asking them to support the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival.
During these media interviews, I make a point to emphasize the entrepreneurial spirit that is pervasive across our industry. Restaurants, like every small business, have found ways to keep serving customers safely by creating delivery and take-out options where there were none, enhancing existing off-premises options, and using technology in new ways to facilitate as many contactless connections as possible. We know that those are just the things that customers and the media see on the outside and that the industry is doing so much more. To that end, I am also sharing with reporters our ServSafe Dining Commitment and free COVID-19 training and resources to illustrate what we’re doing in the back of the house to build upon our legacy of operational and safety excellence.  
Finally, I am asking all of our customers for help. Recently, there has been a flurry of media reports suggesting restaurants are to blame for the rise in COVID-19 cases. We are aggressively pushing back on this narrative and reminding customers that we all share responsibility for keeping ourselves and others safe, and we cannot place blame on a single industry. In our statement we assert, “Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA’s Food Code and have taken new steps to meet social distancing guidelines required by state and federal officials. We all have responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing. We continue to urge restaurants to follow the National Restaurant Association’s Reopening Guidance in addition to CDC, FDA, and state and local guidelines. Additionally, we ask all of our customers to help us keep our employees and their fellow diners safe by following all of the existing guidelines.”
In the coming days, we are likely to see more states pull back or pause reopening plans, with restaurants and their employees being among the hardest hit. Working alongside our state restaurant association partners, we will continue to advocate for policies that help restaurants serve their customers and communities safely and push back on irresponsible reporting that unfairly places blame on our industry for the rise in cases.
Whether you’re dining in responsibly or enjoying restaurant food off-premises, please join me in supporting our industry in whatever way possible.
Tom Bene Signature