Texas Restaurant Association: Next 45 days critical for locally-owned restaurants

Restaurants are struggling during the pandemic and many may not survive. Some say the next 45 days are critical for restaurant survival in North Texas.

Texas Restaurant Association President Dr. Emily Williams Knight said she doesn’t think anyone could have imagined in March that the coronavirus pandemic would still be affecting restaurants so much in July.

“We’re running out of liquidity. Restaurants, especially our independents, don’t have the funds to continue on as the costs continue to escalate and the customers are not returning,” she said.

The cost of goods has gone up. Prices for everything from meat and dairy to alcohol have skyrocketed. Extra to-go containers are also costing restaurants more.

The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program has also ended. Congress has until Aug. 7 to agree on another round of funding.

“We keep telling our elected officials in Texas we need this desperately because the first round is out and the crisis has gone on much longer than people ever expected. So we need that second round of funding like immediately,” Knight said.

It’s the independently-owned restaurants that make the community unique that are hurting the most.

North Texas Chef Tom Fleming of Crossroads Diner said his business is down more than 50%.

Chef Stephan Pyles said the pandemic will force a restructuring of the restaurant business and that restructuring will be permanent.

Fellow Chef Tim Love pointed out it’s not just the restaurants that are hurting. It’s also the farmers they buy from, the suppliers, the valet service and even the company that washes table linens.

“The ecosystem just in Texas is millions. We employ some three million. We have about 600,000 still on the sidelines and everyone who services that you’re talking about two, three or four million jobs now that have been impacted by this crisis,” Knight said.

Customers are often willing to support their favorite locally-owned restaurant but may not be ready to return to the dining room yet. But are take-out orders really enough to help restaurants survive?

“Every bit helps, right. We always say to people if you’re not comfortable dining in yet, dine outside. If you don’t want to do either of those do take out. But most importantly, buy a gift card,” Knight said. “I think as Texans we really want to rally around getting this Paycheck Protection thing done but also securing support from the state.”

Knight said the Texas Restaurant Association really feels like the state needs to recognize the cost of the shutdowns and measures restaurants are taking to keep people safe.

“We really need to get the state to lean in and support. Our independent restaurants are the lifeblood of our communities. We can’t afford to lose our coffee houses and our noodle shops and our specialty restaurants because when they are gone, they are never going to come back,” she said. “We really all need to lean in as Texans right now and help get this crisis through.”

More: txrestaurant.org