Citing Omicron, Louisiana Restaurant Association Asks for More Federal Relief
METAIRIE — The Louisiana Restaurant Association has released new survey data highlighting the negative impact the omicron variant has had on restaurants, and the positive effects the Restaurant Revitalization Fund had on the industry.
According to National Restaurant Association analysis, the first round of RRF funding (which ended in July) saved more than 10,000 Louisiana restaurant jobs. In total, the U.S. Small Business Administration said it awarded grants totaling $393 million across more than 1,300 businesses in Louisiana. But only 38% of eligible businesses in the state ultimately received any help before the program’s coffers ran dry.
The survey found that nearly 60% of restaurant operators that did not receive RRF grants feel it’s unlikely that they will stay in business beyond the pandemic without a grant. And 98% of operators that applied for an RRF grant, but did not receive funding, said a future grant would enable them to retain or hire back employees.
“This highlights how impactful RRF replenishment would be,” said Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association in a press release. “The National Restaurant Association estimates indicate that full replenishment of the RRF will save an additional 20,000 Louisiana restaurant jobs. The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amidst continued economic uncertainty. The decisions Congress could make in the coming weeks will be critical toward the future of the restaurants that are so proud to serve our communities.”
The LRA says the restaurant industry was hit hard by the latest surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant. Forced to adapt to deteriorating consumer confidence, restaurants reduced hours and days of operation, cut seating capacity and pivoted to off-premises dining. Some shut down altogether. The end result is lower overall sales volumes in 2021 than in 2019.
According to the survey, 87% of Louisiana restaurants experienced a decline in customer demand for indoor on-premises dining, 65% report that business conditions are worse now than three months ago, and 79% said their restaurant is less profitable now than it was before the pandemic.
“The new data show that restaurant recovery is paralyzed and nowhere near complete. The restaurant industry is at an inflection point, and Congress must act now to replenish the RRF,” said Harris.
The Louisiana findings were provided by the National Restaurant Association Research Group, which conducted a COVID-19 restaurant impact survey of 4,200 restaurant operators between Jan. 16 and 18. Read the report of key Louisiana findings here.