Restaurants still face burdensome challenges from COVID-19, and the National Restaurant Association is committed to working on solutions to help the industry rebuild and prosper in the months ahead. Tom Bené, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, shared plans and goals with the organization’s board at its recent, virtual, fall meeting.

Statistics show enormous toll on the industry

Bené addressed the industry’s enormous losses with board members, including key findings from the Association’s latest research:

  • Restaurants have sustained more than $185 billion in lost sales over the last seven months, and estimates indicate the number will grow to $240 billion by year-end
  • More than 8 million industry employees were without jobs at the height of the pandemic
  • About 100,000 restaurants have either permanently closed or are closed for the long term, but the true number won’t be known until government statistics are released in the months ahead

Despite those staggering statistics, Bené said the industry’s passion, creativity, and willingness to push forward hasn’t wavered, even during the most challenging times.

Engagement at all levels

To help the industry meet the challenges, Bené detailed how the Association is working at all levels to help the industry weather the COVID-19 storm. Three primary objectives include:

  1. Policy engagement. The Government Affairs team continually advocates for critical changes to expand financial assistance, such as the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which was signed into law in June. The team also developed a “Blueprint for Restaurant Revival” that asks Congress to make significant legislative changes that would support restaurants of every size and operation model across the country.
  2. Restaurant Revival campaign. This initiative, funded and developed in partnership with several of the Association’s allied members, seeks to educate consumers about the steps restaurants are taking to protect employees and guests from exposure to coronavirus and to ensure them it’s safe to dine out.
  3. ServSafe Dining Commitment. Part of the Restaurant Revival, the commitment is a pledge participating restaurants take stating they are:
  • Following the Association’s safe reopening guidance
  • Adhering to local public health requirements
  • Employing ServSafe-certified staff members

Bené also said plans are underway to increase the tools and solutions available to restaurateurs in 2021. This includes the expansion of the Association’s ServSafe suite of programs, and expanding the reach of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, which helps members develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to diversity and racial equality in their businesses. The Association will continue to focus on federal and state legislative actions that will help the industry recover financially as well.

Going into 2021, the Association and Educational Foundation are well-positioned to continue supporting the industry at the highest levels, Bené said. “Rest assured, we will focus on areas where we can affect the most change with the resources we have, ensure the path forward, while advancing and supporting our industry.”