With large corporate restaurant chains receiving emergency small business loans, the national restaurant community is in an uproar. Ruth’s Chris Steak House, subsidiary of Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc. received $20 million in SBA loans for COVID-19 crisis-relief and now Shake Shack, which received a $10 million bailout last week, is returning the money after outrage in the industry.
The program was originally designed for companies with less than 500 employees, but a loophole exempted restaurants and hotels from that limit if they had less than 500 employees per location. Many small restaurants didn’t receive a dime of assistance and now the fund is out of money.
With roughly eight million workers laid-off, National Restaurant Association reported that industry-wide losses may reach $80 billion by the end of April. On April 21, the Senate approved another $310 billion in small-business loans but it’s still unclear what percentage will go to the restaurant industry, which employs over 15 million people.
While some organizations such as Change. org are lobbying for Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc. to return the money, the National Restaurant Association is also seeking recovery funds, and celebrity chefs such as French Laundry and Bouchon owner Thomas Keller are trying to put together a “task force” to lobby the government. Keller tweeted (to some backlash) that he would be joining President Trump’s White House Great American Economic Revival initiative, in an attempt to help save the restaurant industry. Other participants include local resident Wolfgang Puck, as well as Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The top toques hope to use their notoriety to bring attention to the plight of restaurateurs struggling to keep staff on payroll. (Puck has already had a conversation with the President about this topic.)
Other local restaurants are helping the community in other ways. The An family of Crustacean has launched a “Crustacean Cares” GoFundMe page, co-owner, Elizabeth An told the Courier. The family is matching some of the donations when the public buys a box of essentials for hospitality workers who have lost their jobs, a bag of goods for the elderly, or a bowl of Matzo Ball Pho soup for medical workers on the front line with the next round of deliveries going to Cedars-Sinai in a few weeks. “We hope the community will help spread the word and help us keep this [Crustacean Cares] effort going as long as we can,” said An.