A roster of funding programs have cropped up to help restaurants through the pandemic.
As COVID-19 numbers climb, shelter-in-place orders are issued in various states, and businesses shutter, restaurants are grappling with the unimaginable as it happens in real time.
Many brands remain open for carryout and drive thru, and operations haven’t ceased entirely as of yet for foodservice businesses. But officials are warning that it will get worse before it gets better, and slimmed-down off-premises operations aren’t enough to keep restaurants (especially independent concepts) afloat.
On March 18, a letter written by the National Restaurant Association to President Trump estimated that the industry would lose $225 billion and five to seven million people would be left jobless over the next few months. The letter suggested a variety of governmental measures that would assist the restaurant industry in particular, requesting direct/targeted financial relief as one form of aid.
While federal stimulus packages are in the works, it could be awhile before governmental bodies agree on an approach, and before restaurants and other businesses see any cash.
In the absence of aid, some other relief fund options have arisen for restaurants and foodservice workers in need. These are some of those programs, available to restaurants, bars, and restaurant employees all over the U.S. And diners are a crucial part of this equation, too: Placing carryout orders, purchasing gift cards, and donating to the below funds are all ways that consumers can help keep their favorite restaurants above water.
Restaurants and Bars:
This collective is working to get funds to restaurants as soon as possible through Dining Bonds, or savings-bond-like vouchers that customers can purchase now and redeem for face value at a future date. People can call restaurants directly or, in some cases, visit the business’ website to buy the bonds.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
Independent restaurants can apply for low-interest working capital loans of up to $2 million from the Small Business Association. These loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills, and the interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses.
Food and beverage assistance nonprofit the Southern Smoke Foundation is raising money to donate to restaurants in crisis. Restaurants may apply for assistance using an entirely anonymous form on the nonprofit’s site.
Created by the founders of restaurant-ordering platform Lunchbox, Help Main Street is giving diners the chance to provide cash support for local restaurants and other businesses through gift card purchases. All of Help Main Street’s proceeds are donated to help small businesses.
Local for Later is compiling an ongoing list of small businesses that customers can support through online gift card purchases. Businesses are broken down by location on Local for Later’s site, and a form is also available for submitting new eligible businesses.
Garnett—the company behind USA TODAY and other media outlets—built its new Support Local platform to help people show support for local businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. The platform connects customers with gift cards available from their favorite businesses, and also allows users to add concepts that aren’t already on the list.
Hospitality financial resource nonprofit Another Round, Another Rally is offering $500 relief grants for hospitality workers who lost their jobs or have had their hours slashed due to coronavirus. Anyone in the hospitality industry is eligible and grants are distributed via a variety of cash apps and services.
The Association is operating a “tip your bartender” campaign that will raise cash for foodservice industry workers whose livelihoods are significantly impacted by COVID-19. Those who wish to participate must make a video of themselves mixing their favorite drink and toasting those affected in foodservice and hospitality; post the video to social media with #LiftYourSpirits; challenge friends to participate as well; and send a “tip” donation to the Association's Educational Foundation.
Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation
This emergency fund is geared towards individual restaurant workers undergoing financial hardship due to the coronavirus. The fund is also providing zero interest loans for businesses to maintain payroll during closures or reopen once the virus begins to recede.
One Fair Wage’s Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Worker Support Fund serves to give cash assistance to any service industry employee who needs it. The program is open to restaurant workers as well as delivery drivers and others. Workers who are already members of One Fair Wage or who sign up and participate in a confirmation interview will be qualified to receive assistance.
Unite Here Education and Support Fund
Unite Here is amassing funds to cover vital needs for hospitality workers who have been laid-off or made underemployed by covid-19. The group’s funds are used for maintaining family health insurance; food, rent, and utilities; replacing lost wages; and retraining for new jobs during the business downturn.
Go Tip ‘Em gives people the chance to help a bartender affected by the coronavirus by donating to a virtual tip jar. All donors need to do is post a photo of a beer, wine, spirit, or cocktail on social media with #gotipem, select a bartender from a list on the Go Tip ‘Em site, and then send any amount to that bartender’s preferred payment service.
Spillthedish was designed to assist foodservice workers in locating healthy and supportive restaurant work environments. Now, the service is redirecting its efforts to support restaurant owners, donors, and employees with a database of funding opportunities available to those in the industry. Users can search specific results and even break them down by state.
USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program
The U.S. Bartenders Guild is running a covid-19 relief campaign that awards bartenders and their families with grants. The funds are available to even those who are not USBG members and bartenders, bar backs, bar servers, or anyone else engaged in the service of alcoholic beverages can apply.