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Food Service Industry Updates

Restaurant Association Welcomes Introduction of ‘Replenishment’ Bill

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 could provide $60 billion in additional funding.

While the National Restaurant Association called the government’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) an “incredibly effective recovery tool” to help the beaten-down industry heal from the effects of the pandemic, the association knew the $28.6 billion in funding wouldn’t last long enough for many operators to receive a dollar of it.

So the association was happy to hear that a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress June 11 called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 to provide $60 billion in additional funding for the RRF.

“When the RRF portal closed in May, small business restaurant owners all wanted to know ‘what’s next’ for their pending applications,” said Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association’s executive vice president of public affairs. “The introduction of this additional $60 billion in funding not only answers that question but proves once again that Congress understands and supports the foodservice industry.”

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), more than 362,000 applications for a total of $75 billion in funding were received in the three weeks the RRF application portal was open. The average grant application was for just over $200,000. According to the National Restaurant Association, this means that more than half of the eating and drinking establishments open at the beginning of the pandemic operated with a severe revenue loss in the last year.

Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the restaurant industry has lost $290 billion in sales, 90,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long term and more than 1.5 million jobs have not been recovered.

Kennedy said the association appreciated the leadership of Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Pa.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who have supported the restaurant industry throughout the pandemic. Kennedy said their bipartisan support continues to be critical for local restaurants needing access to relief for full recovery.

But the challenges facing the restaurant industry have not subsided as the country emerges from the pandemic, the association said, noting that most operators are still well below normal staffing levels and are not on a path to sustained profitability for the year.

“For much of the country, life is starting to feel close to normal,” Kennedy said. “While restaurants are optimistic about this trend, we’re still in the early days of rebuilding and are far from recovery. Industry revenue continues to be below expectations, and in many states we’re still operating under limitations.

“To make sure we don’t lose our rebuilding momentum, we will continue to focus on creating access to the tools the industry needs to address outstanding obligations and to manage the new challenges that could slow our recovery,” Kennedy added.