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Restaurant industry hit hard by omicron asks Congress for additional relief money

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Story at a glance

  • The National Restaurant Association (NRA) published survey results from thousands of restaurateurs from Jan. 16 to 18.
  • The results found that 88 percent of restaurants have suffered a decline in demand for indoor dining because of the surge in omicron COVID-19 cases.
  • NRA also published a letter it wrote to Congress, asking legislators to reinstate the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help struggling restaurateurs.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) announced that over 88 percent of restaurants have suffered a decline in demand for indoor dining because of the highly transmissible omicron variant and now the group is asking Congress step in and help. 

NRA published a statement on Monday that included survey results of 4,200 restaurateurs from Jan. 16 to 18 which found that the omicron variant has not only dampened customer demand, it’s also made their restaurants less profitable now than they were before the pandemic.  

The group also found that the federal government’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, saved over 900,000 jobs and prevented 96 percent of the recipients of the fund from going out of business.  

RRF provided restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue losses up to $10 million per business and with no more than $5 million per physical location. The program does not require recipients to pay back the funding so long as the money is used for eligible purchases no later than March 11, 2023. 


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The fund has since been depleted and is no longer accepting new applications, and now NRA is hoping to convince Congress to reinstate the program through the next legislative package. 

In a letter to top Congressional leadership, Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at NRA, emphasized how two years into the coronavirus pandemic, with added pressures of inflation, supply chain problems and a labor shortage, restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open.  

Kennedy described the restaurant industry recovery as, “paralyzed and nowhere near complete.” 

Though the RRF helped some struggling businesses, NRA argues that its survey found nearly 50 percent of restaurant operators that did not receive RRF grants felt it was unlikely that they would stay in business beyond the pandemic without a grant. About 94 percent of restaurant operators that applied for an RRF grant but did not receive one said a future grant would enable them to retain or hire back employees. 

Kennedy pressed Congressional leadership to replenish RRF, estimating it would save over 1.6 million restaurant jobs.  

“The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amid continued economic uncertainty. The decisions you make in the coming weeks will be critical to the future of the nation’s restaurant industry,” said Kennedy.  


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