Stories / Impact

Grants and New Policies are Key to Helping Restaurants

Takeaways from our post-winter survey

Alexina Cather

March 25, 2022



Photo: Clay Williams

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, including the emergence of the Omicron variant, the James Beard Foundation polled its network of chefs and restaurant owners in March on the health of their business, post-winter. Chefs and restaurateurs from 43 states and the District of Columbia participated in the survey.

While the surge of Omicron in late November and a lack of federal relief severely hampered the restaurant industry’s recovery this winter, 52 percent of respondents said they suffered no revenue loss between February 2021 and March 2022, compared to the same period last year. However, many commented that they were still a long way from pre-pandemic revenues. Higher operational costs, at 77 percent, and staffing struggles, at 72 percent, were the most frequently selected challenges. Other significant challenges included Omicron (59 percent); fewer customers (47 percent); and lower revenue (44 percent). 

When it comes to solutions, more than 60 percent of respondents said that replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund would help their business; 57 percent said state and grant loans were needed; and 55 percent reported that additional EIDL funds or other federal grants or loans would benefit them. Many participants stressed that grants rather than loans are what they really needed. Others expressed frustration with payouts from the Employee Retention Credit being delayed.

Survey results demonstrate that additional grants are imperative, along with the creation of new policies at the local, state, and federal level that provide funds and increased revenue streams. Public/private partnerships that offer financial assistance may also provide a lifeline for many restaurants on the verge of closing. 

Chefs looking to new revenue streams to continue their recovery might consult our Open for Good: Business Innovation Models report, made in collaboration with Deloitte. The project found the following business model adaptations enhanced resiliency and provided the greatest return on investment:

  1. Contract meals
  2. Family style meals, to-go
  3. Expanded takeout
  4. Cocktails to-go
  5. Pop-up restaurants
  6. Establishing a market/store

Keep an eye out for our companion report that will be published in April on our Industry Support page. It will highlight strategies that restaurant owners have adopted when it comes to their staff, and may help those looking to attract and retain employees. 

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Learn more about the James Beard Foundation's efforts to help keep restaurants Open for Good.
Alexina Cather is the director of policy advocacy and sustainability at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.