We have never seen anything like this. Everyone in the restaurant industry is petrified beyond today – they immediately think about how impossible it might be to dig themselves out of the hole being created. I have communicated with many who are crushed with fear, a sense of loss, and helplessness after telling employees that they can’t keep them on and there is no indication of when things might return to normalcy.
The National Restaurant Association predicts that the industry could lose 5-7 million jobs as a result of the Covid – 19 virus and subsequent required closings.
There is no question that the restaurant industry, one of the largest employers in the country, an industry that is important for the nutrition, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the population, and a business that has become an integral part of the American lifestyle, is in need of help. Here are some thoughts:
 Small, privately owned restaurant operators, chefs, and cooks, bartenders and servers are proud people. They are typically under compensated for their work and under-appreciated for their commitment, but they remain proud. These proud people are not looking for a handout – what they want is a fair shot at remaining in business and being successful.
 Government intervention through provision of 0% short and long-term loans to help these restaurants survive and rise up when this crisis is over is a fair shot.
 Rent forgiveness or timed payment delay for the next few months provides them with a fair shot.
 When a portion of a city starts a process of renewal one of the first businesses to get the ball rolling is typically a restaurant. When the restaurant draws a base of customers then other aspects of renewal fall into place. Rent control for these initial business risk takers gives them a fair shot.
 A $15/hour minimum wage gives employees a fair shot and as long as restaurateurs are given guidance on how to adapt to increased wages then the operation also has a fair shot.
 Extended and expanded unemployment insurance will give employees a chance – they do pay into this.
 Why not energize a partnership between the SBA and Culinary, Hospitality and Business Colleges? Keep in mind that everything will change as we eventually claw our way out of this crisis. This change will impact restaurants and all of those businesses that feed into it, including colleges. A federal initiative to mobilize these experts to provide additional guidance, training, and consultation to restaurants as they seek to find ways to survive and come through this – prepared to succeed is a fair shot for restaurants and an opportunity for colleges. This is a perfect time to focus on training.
Additionally, colleges, especially private ones, will likely face a significant drop in applications and enrolled students as America seeks to regain confidence and rebuild their financial stability. This training partnership with the SBA could provide an opportunity for schools to shift their focus and business model – at least for the time being.
 As part of any increase in unemployment insurance without the prospect of finding work elsewhere – why not redirect the initiative for free tuition to free on-line training for workers in specific fields. Set aside the need to focus on degrees and push for training in fields that will need a better-prepared workforce in the coming few years.
 There are, and there will be even more Americans who are nutritionally disadvantaged. School lunch programs, unemployed workers, senior citizens, and the homeless will face incredible food hardships. Why not engage our country’s food logistics champion and appoint Chef Jose Andres to head up a nationwide and government supported initiative to end hunger in America. Working with restaurants, the millions of cooks from coast to coast, and restaurant organizations this could be one of the most important initiatives to rise up out of the current crisis.
We must, obviously, put our full effort into fighting the threat of Covid-19 and building renewed confidence in our ability to keep the population safe and healthy, but we know that at some point soon, the economic perils that we face will be just as significant. We must plan quickly on how to do more than simply throw money at the problem and avoid being focused on just today. Tomorrow will come much too quickly.
The restaurant industry is only one of many that will face a troubled future, but we do know that real recovery must include emotional and mental health that restaurant experiences play such an important role in addressing. We will know that a new normal has arrived when our restaurants are once again full of people enjoying each other’s company, a great plate of food, and a chance to laugh again.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Restaurants are Essential
Harvest America Ventures, LLC