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The Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants

JBF Editors

March 20, 2020


Pita bread in the Beard House photo Jeff Gurwin
Photo: Jeffrey Gurwin

In light of the urgent and dire financial situation facing restaurants due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, this past week the James Beard Foundation conducted a survey to provide an immediate snapshot of the industry’s needs. Almost 1,500 chefs, restaurateurs, beverage professionals, and workers participated in this survey—which was deployed on March 15, just one day after the first statewide mandates to close restaurants were announced. The results provide real insight into the immediate challenges facing food service professionals, as well as what magnitude of support is required to sustain their businesses across different periods of time. Below are some of the top-line results:

  • 56% of respondents have one restaurant and 66% employ up to 50 people.
  • More than 60% of all respondents do not have enough operating capital to sustain a closure for one full month; and 80% are uncertain whether retooling to offer delivery and take out would be able to sustain them.
  • Of those restaurants in a municipality that had been forced to close, almost 75% believe they will be unable to reopen after 2 months.
  • At the time of this survey, respondents said they had already had to let go 78% of their hourly workers and 58% of their salaried employees.
  • On an individual basis, 44% of the respondents estimated their restaurants could make it through their first month of closure with an infusion of just $25,000 cash.
  • To sustain themselves for three months, 77% or respondents thought it could take up to $250,000.
  • Extrapolating that number to the estimated 480,000 independent restaurants in America (per this CHD Expert report), the industry would require an infusion of as much as $92 billion.
  • Since we have no way of knowing how long these closures will last, the newly formed Independent Restaurant Coalition is asking Congress for a $150 billion immediate stimulus package, with subsequent material asks to follow.

We recognize that these are extremely challenging times. We are here, as always, to underscore the importance of the restaurant industry to the fabric of our culture and our communities, and to show how the leadership of those in this industry is a model for the other to follow.

Last night we launched the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund, to help bring swift economic relief to these essential businesses.

Donate now.

If you are inquiring about criteria in the application process for the JBF Relief Fund, please add your information here. We are working on application materials at this time and will send out information when it is ready. If you have any questions about the fund, contact us at