Stats Of The Week

The State Of The Industry

With 2020 coming to a close, the restaurant industry is set to end the year with more distressed businesses than it had during the Great Recession, according to a report from AlixPartners. As of October, 50% of limited-service restaurants and 63% of full-service restaurants were considered distressed. In comparison, at the end of the recession 33% of limited-service restaurants and 17% of full-service restaurants were at risk of permanently closing down. As PPP loans run out, a new round of restaurant restrictions loom and with little hope of federal aid until January, restaurant operators are put in a difficult position on what to do next.

"The industry has really taken a beating. [For] independents, particularly the smaller independents, it's really been catastrophic," Edward Webb, advisory partner at BPM which specializes in accounting, taxes and financing, said to Restaurant Dive.

NY Governor Rates Restaurants Fifth Source Of Infection Spread

During a press conference on Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo produced a chart showing the risks of COVID-19 exposure due to various activities. At the top of the list was household/social gatherings with 73.8%, healthcare delivery 7.8%, college students 2%, education employees 1.5%, with restaurants and bars coming in fifth at 1.4%. These numbers have restaurant advocates questioning why the governor is targeting restaurants and requiring them to close their dining rooms when they pose a lower risk compared to other institutions that are able to stay open. Brian Leydet, an assistant professor of epidemiology and infectious disease at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, cautioned against reading too much into the apparently low 1.4% risk factor at restaurants. Leydet cites that any time a person takes off a mask it increases the risk of transmission.

What’s Trending

NYC Restaurants Forced To Shutter Indoor Dining Once Again

Last Friday, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City restaurants must shut down their dining rooms starting December 14. This decision to further restrict restaurants came as the city is on the cusp of reaching 90% of its hospital capacity. Cuomo said during the press conference that the indoor dining ban is intended to avoid the broader shutdown which would mean completely shutting down all nonessential businesses. He also called on the federal government to come to a decision and give the hospitality industry financial relief. According to contract tracing data, Cuomo said that restaurants and bars are the fifth main source of new infections in the state of New York. Some argue that this data only comes from individuals who respond to contact tracers and is not reflective of every infection in the state.

The NRA Presses To Give Restaurant Workers Early Access To Vaccine

The National Restaurant Association and other restaurant-industry advocates are pushing federal and state officials to put restaurant employees at the top of the list to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These groups argue that restaurant staff have been designated as essential workers and expected to risk their personal safety to provide food to their customers. Tom Bene, CEO of the NRA, argues that restaurants and other employees should be spared the cost of the vaccine and have the government cover the cost. Bene believes that vaccinating restaurant workers will help their guests feel more comfortable and safe and drive them to visit their restaurants. As a result, the industry’s workforce would add considerable momentum to the nation’s economic recovery.

“We continue to suggest that, as an important industry, those workers should be part of the food-supply-chain workforce that gets vaccinated early. Whether that happens in every state or every situation, we don’t know yet,” Bene said during the Restaurant Recovery Summit held by Restaurant Business.

NY Offers Restaurants A Free Digital Ordering Platform

With recent indoor dining closures adding more stress on operators, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a new initiative in an effort to support the state’s restaurants. As a part of New York’s Empire State Digital Initiative, the state is offering Ritual’s commission-free digital ordering platform to restaurants called Ritual One. The platform adds no cost for pickup and delivery and is in place through April. Restaurants that take part in the initiative and join Ritual will have the ability to accept contactless payments through PayPal and Venmo. Ritual will waive setup fees, monthly subscriptions and credit card processing fees as a part of the program. Operators can customize their platforms to match their branding and integrate the platform with their restaurant’s point of sale systems.

Restaurant Transitions To Reusable To-Go Packaging

San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe is a farm-to-table restaurant that has been open for more than 40 years and has become a notable part of the local community. Zuni Cafe has partnered with Dispatch Goods, a startup that provides restaurants with containers, collects used containers, cleans them and returns them to the restaurant. Zuni is rolling the cost of the reusable boxes and bowls with silicone lids into its menu pricing. Customers are responsible for returning their empty containers to the restaurant or by texting Dispatch Goods to arrange a home pickup or can drop off the containers at their collection bins around the city.

“Garbage is convenient. I keep telling my team, this is going to be inconvenient, relative to garbage. We’re asking people to take on more responsibility here. But everyone is familiar with the issue with landfills and plastics. We want to show what’s possible that this can be good for us, and good for the customer. Not only that we can do this, that we should do this,” Zuni Cafe Chef Nate Norris said to Eater.

Food Delivery Platforms Raise Prices For Customers To Benefit Drivers

After California residents voted in favor of Proposition 22, a ballot measure that exempts third-party delivery platforms from reclassifying drivers as employees, customers can expect delivery and other fees to go up. On Monday, Uber raised prices in California to add driver healthcare subsidies and other driver perks it promised as a part of the Proposition. DoorDash will make slight percentage increases to service fees on customer orders. Uber customers will be impacted differently, based on exact location and type of service. Food delivery bills in Los Angeles have increased by $0.99 and by $2 in San Francisco. Though customers will experience some price increases in their food orders, the companies say the costs are less dramatic than if the Proposition would have lost.

Bright Spots In A COVID-19 World

Domino’s Gives Employees Special Bonuses

Domino’s has invested over $9.6 million to provide additional bonuses to over 11,500 company-owned and supply chain hourly team members and drivers. Eligible employees will receive up to $1,200 in bonus compensation. The pizza chain previously paid bonuses to hourly supply chain and corporate store employees during a 10-week period from March to May. They have also offered expanded sick leave benefits to their employees since the beginning of the pandemic. Domino’s is one of the few companies in the industry that has seen strong double-digit sales growth in the U.S. The company hopes these bonuses will help retain its corporate store employees and attract future potential employees.

Local Fundraiser Surpasses Target Goal

A crowdfunding campaign held by Bendigo Foodshare in New Castle, Delaware raised more than $55,000 for local restaurants and exceeded their initial goal of $10,000. With the help of local hospitality businesses, restaurants, and social enterprises the Cafes for Covid fundraiser aimed to provide meals to food-insecure families in the area. The cooked meals reached people directly impacted by the pandemic and allowed residents to experience new cuisines. The money raised was able to help 25 local cafes, catering companies, and local businesses provide 10,000 meals during the pandemic.

"We do know the meals have been of value to many vulnerable people who had to self isolate during the pandemic, vulnerable women and children, multicultural communities and those accessing food relief for the first time," Bridget Bentley, manager of Bendigo Foodshare, said to the New Castle Herald.

Quote Of Hope

“Food is immigration. Food is health. Food is national security. Food is job creation. Food is economic growth,” Chef José Andrés, restaurateur and founder of World Central Kitchen