Few industries have been hit by COVID-19 like restaurants. And nearly two years into the pandemic, the struggle to stay in business is far from over for thousands of operators. With chains like Ruby Tuesday and Golden Corral teetering on the brink of disaster, it’s really independent restaurants — local moms and pops without corporate support — that have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s toll.
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With ups and downs restrictions and mandates across the country, a hesitant restaurant community, new variations, and mixed messages about the restrictions from government officials, it’s no wonder independent restaurants have been pushed to their breaking points. A recent survey by the Independent Restaurant Coalition reports that a staggering number 42% of independent restaurants that have not received government assistance are on the verge of bankruptcy. While $28.6 billion has been allocated to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, more than 177,000 restaurants and bars have not seen a penny of this financial assistance, and now almost half of them find themselves in front of the bankruptcy court.
And the statistics get even grimmer: 28% of these underfunded independent businesses have already received or expect to receive eviction notices. Some 25% sold personal property, 30% cut staff and 49% laid off staff in order to stay afloat.
The survey surveyed 1,200 restaurants in all 50 states, with 33% of respondents hailing from the Western region, 27% from the South, 22% from the Northeast and 18% from the Midwest.
It’s a stark reminder that no matter how low COVID positivity rates are or how hopeful and “normal” things are, the pandemic is still not over for the restaurant industry, especially independent restaurants left to fend for themselves.
“Congress and the Biden administration need to treat this like the crisis it is and get the RRF back together,” said Erik Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “The nearly 200,000 restaurants and bars left behind in the first funding round are running out of time.”