At the time of this writing, remaining hopes for the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) were dashed when the $48 billion bill to provide relief to small businesses hit by COVID restrictions could not get sufficient votes to overcome a filibuster. Last year, the fund had helped restaurants struggling with the strains of the pandemic to pay employees and cover debts. However, of the more than 278,000 restaurants that applied for funds, only 101,000 restaurant applicants received grants before the Small Business Administration had exhausted its funds. For the remaining restaurants, the replenishment of the fund was especially critical. According to the National Restaurant Association, 62 percent of operators who didn’t receive funding have racked up additional debts and 57 percent have fallen behind on expenses. The Independent Restaurant Council estimates that more than half of the 177,300 independent restaurants awaiting RRF grants could close without additional aid. So if relief isn’t coming in the form of grants, where can operators find it? Start with your relationships. Find other operators in your situation and discuss how you might help each other through this rough patch by pooling staff or supplies, sharing expertise or even partnering in a different venture like a virtual kitchen. Lean on your strong relationships with landlords and suppliers and look for any leeway they might give you on existing contracts. Finally, talk to your guests. They don’t want to see a favorite community business go away, so this is a prime time for them to demonstrate their loyalty. They might be able to help you brainstorm ideas to generate much-needed income and community support in the near term.
Rare, difficult-to-source ingredients are so 2019. At a time of high inflation, supply-chain strain and increased awareness of carbon footprints, it has become far more fashionable – and yes, far more necessary – for restaurants to take a pantry-to-plate approach. That means creating mindful menus that make the best use of ingredients you have in plentiful supply each season. Most items you order should be workhorse ingredients with a range of applications – as the star of one dish and a supporting player in another, for example, or as a reliable contributor of depth, texture or nutritional content in a variety of dishes. As an extension of that, now is a good time to review your portion sizes, find creative ways to use every part of an ingredient, and repurpose any leftovers into interesting specials. Food waste costs the hospitality industry over $100 billion a year, and more than 70 percent of that waste occurs before it even reaches a guest’s plate. Adopting tools that automate your inventory management, ensure you’re spending money on the best-value ingredients available, and precisely measure the size of a portion can help you ensure you’re not leaving money on the table.