Light at the End of the Tunnel? Or Train?

The RESTAURANTS Act is still alive, but it needs your help. Plus: Is Uber Eats' grant program a godsend or a punch in the gut?

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Uber Eats' Super Bowl ad imploring diners to "eat local" was widely mocked. But now the company wants to give (some of) you money. / youtube.com

Those desperate emails you sent to federal lawmakers in 2020? Good news! It’s 2021, and there’s a new, targeted restaurant relief program. So ready that index finger (or maybe your middle finger) to hit send on a whole new flurry of desperate emails to your representatives and senators, since the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 needs to go through the whole legislative process all over again. (Better news? It takes less than 30 seconds to send that email. Really.)

The Colorado Restaurant Association is also looking to find out whether you support an increase to the minimum wage that does away with the tipped minimum wage; is launching a grassroots activism campaign that needs your help; and explains (again) that you can’t install plexiglass dividers instead of keeping six feet between parties.

Finally, strange times make for strange bedfellows: Uber Eats is awarding $5,000 grants to small restaurants; the application window opens Tuesday, February 16. The catch? You had to be “partnered” with the universally reviled service before January 1, 2021.

The following information comes from the CRA’s February 8, 9, and 10 newsletters. Sign up to receive the full versions here. And take a gander at its Coronavirus Resource Center and COVID-19 Reopening Resources for general info.

Ask Your Representatives to Sponsor the Unified RESTAURANTS Act of 2021

You all have been following this issue closely, but for reference, here is some quick background information on the RESTAURANTS Act: 

On March 18, 2020, the National Restaurant Association released a Blueprint for Recovery in response to the nationwide shutdown of restaurants just days earlier. This called for a number of relief measures, including the creation of a Restaurant Recovery Fund, a federal grant program to minimize the number of inevitable restaurant closures, displaced workers, and cancelled contracts with suppliers. 

Two versions of the RESTAURANTS Act were released soon after, but the House and Senate bills took different approaches – providing support for some restaurants but not all types that were suffering. The National Restaurant Association and our industry as a whole urged legislators to create a unified bill that would support the entire industry – from the local independent to the local franchisee. 

We are delighted that the unified RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 was just introduced. The bill provides real relief for any small restaurant that can demonstrate they lost revenue in 2020. Federal grants under the bill can be used for everything from retaining workers to operational expenses like inventory and rent. Learn more about the bill here.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are likely to include the text of this plan in their upcoming COVID-19 relief bill. We need the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 to have as many bipartisan cosponsors as possible to demonstrate the immediate urgency of saving the restaurant industry.  

We ask that you please take a quick moment to ask your elected officials in Washington to save restaurants by cosponsoring the unified RESTAURANTS Act of 2021. After 11 months, targeted relief is finally in sight and we need your help to make it a reality.

Click here to contact Congress directly.

Impact Our Advocacy: Tell Us if You Support the “Raise the Wage Act of 2021”

Congress has introduced the “Raise the Wage Act of 2021,” which would increase the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour. This raise would take place incrementally over a five year period and then would increase based on the median wage growth. This legislation also proposes phasing out the tipped wage by 2027. 

We have put together a survey to gauge the stance of our membership on this piece of legislation. Please take a moment to respond to this survey, telling us how the “Raise the Wage Act of 2021” may impact your business if passed. Your responses directly impact the action we take on behalf of our industry, as well as aids our advocacy efforts. Respond to the survey here. 

Submit Your Restaurant to Our Database to Help Our Grassroots Activism Campaign

Our Dine Out to Help Out site includes a database that connects diners with the creative offerings restaurants in their area have implemented through the pandemic, including outdoor dining options, to-go alcohol, provisions, and more. Submit your restaurant’s offerings to be featured in the database here.

The Colorado Restaurant Association kicked off our grassroots activism campaign with the release of a short PSA-style video titled “Life’s Moments” that reminds viewers of the importance of restaurants in our communities and calls on them to act now to save restaurants. The video directs viewers to www.dineouttohelpout.com to see all of the ways they can support Colorado’s restaurants — including grassroots activism efforts on the state, local, and federal levels. Please share the video to your social media pages to help us amplify our call to save restaurants.

As part of this grassroots campaign, we will also be featuring the stories of restaurateurs across the state through the COVID-19 pandemic on our social media channels. Our voice needs to be loud, and needs to be united. You can help by submitting a 200 word or less testimonial telling your business’s story through the COVID-19 pandemic. Please also submit an accompanying headshot, as well as any accreditation necessary to distribute the photo, to edewey@corestaurant.org. Please note: these stories will be shared with the public and with the media. Submit your story here.

Uber Eats Announces Plan For Supporting Local Restaurants – Grant Applications Open Feb. 16

On February 3, Uber Eats announced Uber Eats its Eat Local campaign and renewed efforts to support independent restaurant owners and operators in 2021 as the industry continues to face COVID-related challenges. The National Restaurant Association strongly supports these efforts. “Restaurants continue to face unprecedented challenges this winter. Uber’s support underscores the importance of the entire restaurant and foodservice industry working together as one to advance our recovery efforts,” said Tom Bené, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “These microgrants will help independent restaurants stay open and continue serving their customers and their communities.”

Details of the support package include:

  • $4.5 million in grants to be administered by LISC, pledged to support restaurants active on Uber’s platforms in any U.S. city with financial challenges related to the pandemic. The grant application opens February 16. You can learn more here.
  • Waived and reduced fees for restaurants who use Uber Eats services: 0% for pickup, 0% for processing orders directly on their own websites, and $0 to receive daily payouts to help increase reliable daily cash flow through July 2021
  • Reduced delivery fees for consumers on all Uber Eats orders from independent U.S. restaurants, and dedicated marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants
  • Uber matching to all consumer contributions to restaurants made using the Restaurant Contribution feature in Uber Eats

Additional benefits include extensions of previously announced programs for restaurants to receive daily payouts, rather than the company’s standard weekly payout, and restaurant fee reductions on all Pickup orders and orders processed through its Online Ordering service on independent restaurant websites.

Clarification on Plexiglass Use in Restaurants

Since the launch of 5 Star programs across the state, we have received an increase in questions about plexiglass dividers and have even visited some restaurants using plexiglass as a substitute for spacing their parties six feet apart. At this time, plexiglass dividers are not an approved alternative in lieu of six feet of distancing between parties – even with a 5 Star certification. Meaning, nothing prohibits you from using plexiglass dividers in your restaurant, but you must continue to space all parties at least six feet away from one another with or without the dividers in place. We are not currently aware of any 5 Star certification programs that have changed this requirement.

You can read the full restaurant guideline in appendix H starting on page 54 here.

Talk to DiningOut! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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