Omicron variant hit industry hard; additional RRF funding forecasted to save more Rhode Island jobs
From Staff Reports
The Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA) released state-specific data highlighting the impact of the omicron variant has had so far on the industry as Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) advocacy ramps up. According to National Restaurant Association analysis released this month, the first round of RRF funding saved more than 3,000 Rhode Island-based jobs and helped 94% of recipients of the grant stay in business.
In addition, the survey found that nearly 39% 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. Ninety-six percent restaurant 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.
“These findings highlight how vital replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Relief Fund is for Rhode Island’s hospitality industry. The National Restaurant Association estimates indicate that full replenishment of the RRF will save an additional 3,000 restaurant jobs that are currently at risk in our state,” said Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO, RIHA. “The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more are in need of support amidst continued economic uncertainty. The decisions Congress could make in the coming weeks will be critical to the future of Rhode Island’s restaurants.”
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/days of operation, cut seating capacity, and shutdown, pivoting to off-premises dining with the end result being lower sales volumes in 2021 than in 2019.
The survey found that 96% of restaurants experienced a decline in customer demand for indoor on-premises dining because of the omicron variant; 89% of operators report that business conditions are worse now than three months ago; and 76% say 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. Rhode Island’s restaurant industry is at a breaking point and Congress must act now to replenish the RRF and provide additional relief to our struggling workers and businesses,” said Venturini.
RIHA’s 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 – 18, 2022.