Food Policy Opinion

Governments Are Doing Nothing To Rescue The Struggling Restaurant Industry

“We’ve listened to all the advice, only to be shut down over and over again and not to be compensated… There’s no science that shows outdoor dining is unsafe! I’m not an asshole, [Governor Gavin Newsom] is.”

The above viral clip from Slapfish owner Andrew Gruel has resonated strongly with restaurant owners around the country. Gruel, whose seafood chain has locations nationwide, is echoing frustrations that governments aren’t doing enough to help restaurants while forcing many in the industry out of business.

Meanwhile, the industry is hurting at an unprecedented level. Data from the National Restaurant Association shows an estimated loss of $215 billion in the last eight months across the restaurant industry nationwide. Over 100,000 restaurants have already closed, and estimates figure that over a third of all restaurants could shut down by June without some sort of relief.

Restaurants have been doing everything governments tell them to do for the most part. They’ve added capabilities for outdoor dining, spending thousands of dollars to do so. Chef Jason Quinn of Southern California’s esteemed Playground, for example, was paying thousands of dollars monthly for a heated tent setup that all got shutdown when outdoor dining was banned.

For many, they feel that banning outdoor dining is a step too far, especially when research has not definitively proven that it leads to a spike in coronavirus cases. Outdoor activities with social distancing are actually encouraged, such as walking in parks or camping, and the CDC does consider outdoor dining to be lower risk than indoor dining as well.

Of course, any form of activity where you come into near contact with others has some level of risk for transmission. The safest thing to do would be to shutter everything, but doing that requires stimulus money paid out to restaurants and businesses. Otherwise, they won’t be reopening once those hypothetical lockdowns end.

“All of this following rules is being predicated on being assisted by the government,” Quinn told Foodbeast.

From local to state to federal level, there has been minimal help for struggling restaurants. Outside of a potential meager stimulus package from the city of Los Angeles and the dimming hope of a restaurant bailout bill passing in Congress, there’s little funding out there to ensure restaurants have the ability to reopen after the current period of pandemic lockdowns.

Congress does have the legislation on hand to help out, with the RESTAURANTS Act potentially providing up to $120 billion in relief. While it has passed the House of Representatives, the Senate has fallen flat in helping out one of the most crucial industries in the country. The bill has yet to even be taken up in legislative sessions there.

Meanwhile, the latest round of bailout funding from Congress doesn’t funnel any money into the restaurant or hospitality industry, leaving owners struggling to survive.

Foodbeast has spoken to several restaurant owners since the latest shutdowns began. While some, including Slapfish, are keeping outdoor dining open, and some are sticking with the government lockdowns, all of them had the same message: Without funding and help, independent restaurants likely won’t last much longer.

“Over the last 10 years, food has become an important part of our culture,” Quinn said. “If we lose all of these small restaurants and just end up with Cheesecake Factories and f**king Arby’s and shit, then we’re gonna have lost a lot of really important work.”

Regardless of whether governments should lock down restaurants or open up outdoor dining, they need to be funding restaurants at a level where they can survive, lest the “backbone of the American economy” collapses. They’re currently sitting on their hands and doing little to nothing, meaning that it’s up to us, regular people, through takeout orders and tips and whatever other ways we can support, to help keep these businesses going.

Fast Food News

Subway’s Struggles Led To Nearly 1,000 Restaurant Closures In 2017

America’s largest sandwich chain is floundering in 2017, with nearly 1,000 Subway restaurant closures occurring in just the past year alone.

subway restaurant closures

Photo: MOs810 // Wikimedia Commons

According to Business Insider, Subway lost 3% of its stores in 2017, with numbers dropping from 26,744 to 25,835. That brings the amount of Subway restaurant closures to 909, a little under one thousand for the year.

A lot of factors have contributed to Subway’s struggles over the years, particularly in 2017. The chain still hasn’t recovered from the fallout involving poster boy Jared Fogle and his pedophilia scandal. Combine that with perceived slights in quality to rising competitors like Jimmy John’s and Jersey Mikes, and Subway was already going to have problems coming into 2017.

A report found Subway to have the least loyal customers of 2017, and franchisees are petitioning against the return of the Five Dollar Footlong that was recently announced, claiming their profit margins have suffered enough. For now, that scenario still appears to be happening.

What sealed the deal for the sandwich giant, however, was a massive controversy involving its chicken. A report from CBC claimed that based on DNA, Subway’s chicken strips were only about 50% poultry. Subway has rebuffed those claims multiple times, but it hasn’t helped traffic recover. In fact, since 2012, foot traffic has dived down a devastating 25%, according to a 2017 memo obtained by the New York Post.

Dominos have already begun to fall at Subway, with North America’s marketing head, Karlin Linhardt, resigning this past week.

Still, the chain has had some silver linings this year, as its return of the reuben still got the attention of customers. Subway also hopes that a new restaurant design and loyalty program that will roll out next year will help things begin to look up.

We’ll have to see if 2018 fares to be better for Subway. If not, 2017 could just be the small stones that start an avalanche of trouble.


Multiple Pei Wei Asian Diners Are Still Closed After Illegal-Hire Raids

A report out of NRN this morning recaps the troubled times facing multiple Pei Wei Asian Diner units in Arizona area that were raided over an ID-theft investigation over two weeks ago. The raid resulted in the arrest of 26 workers over multiple restaurants involving locations in Phoenix, Fountain Hills and Tempe.

The action was taken in accordance with Arizona’s Legal Arizona Workers Act that was put into effect back in 2008, requiring employers to check worker documents through a federal E-verify program. Statements from Pei Wei representatives mention that although the E-verify program helps their screening proces, it is not entirely fool-proof or fraud-proof. The restaurants affected are still closed and working to hire and train replacement staff in order get those units opened as soon as possible.