New Survey Reveals Dire Plight Of Independent Restaurants

Opening a small business, especially a restaurant, has never been for the faint of heart, but riding the roller coaster that is the coronavirus pandemic for almost two years has gone far beyond everyday challenges. A recently released survey shows how independent restaurants are being pushed to the brink and begging for relief.

According to Restaurant Business, the pandemic is (at least in part) responsible for closing over 90,000 bars and restaurants in the U.S. Small restaurant owners have had to constantly pivot to stay afloat: opening outdoor dining spaces, cutting back on business hours, providing delivery services, and even not taking a paycheck to try and keep their doors open. Many indie restaurants did not receive any funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), and now these small businesses are in dire straights.

A survey released by the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) shows that 80% of food service businesses that didn't receive grant funding from the RRF are now having to seriously consider shutting down permanently. These restaurants run the risk of, or have already, filed for bankruptcy at a significantly higher rate than those that received relief funds.

The omicron variant has made matters worse for restaurants

As we fly through the Greek alphabet of coronavirus variants, many restaurants are taking on new pandemic-related challenges that they can no longer handle. Aside from issues that restaurants faced during the first year of the pandemic, many businesses are now struggling with complications from omicron, which only adds to an already overloaded plate.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition survey reports that restaurant owners saw their sales decrease by "more than half" in December 2021, and 46% had to change their hours of operation for at least 10 days. Almost 90% of businesses surveyed chose to raise menu prices to combat soaring inflation. Staffing issues also abound as many restaurants struggle to find new hires and find it difficult to provide COVID tests for the employees they still have.

According to Restaurant Business, there may be some hope on the horizon for independent restaurants, since the IRC began lobbying Congress to have them consider a bill that could give $40 billion in additional aid to the foodservice industry. The lobbying group is also attempting to bring awareness to the serious situation that restaurants face by planning a National Day of Action to Save Restaurants.