For restaurants, the past two years have taken creative problem solving to a new level. That has extended to how new and existing restaurant projects are being funded. Higher numbers of restaurants have been inviting loyal guests to help fortify their business for the long haul by becoming investors – the number of restaurant crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter alone grew from 3,400 in mid-2019 to nearly 4,000 in January of this year. The timing makes sense, considering the vast number of restaurants that have been looking for business loans and the smaller pool of large investors available to support them. Further, a restaurant’s loyal guests know first-hand how the business makes a positive impact on their community. If you’re interested in learning more about the possibility of asking guests to support your business in this way, there are a range of contribution models that have come about to help, including Honeycomb, which allows a donor to potentially earn a return on their investment, unlike the lower-stakes, Kickstarter-type models in which someone makes a donation and gets a free meal or merchandise in return. Of course, this also means that operators have more local eyes on them as they run the business day to day – though small restaurant investors may also view their investment as less of a wealth-building scheme than a means of paying it forward.
In a recent legislative update from Washington, Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association’s executive vice president of public affairs, said the restaurant industry had lost 45,000 jobs at the end of August. Further, new vaccine and testing mandates at businesses with a certain threshold of employees on staff could also make already-challenging staffing conditions even more difficult. To be sure, this is not exactly the Covid-19 recovery that restaurant operators had in mind – but there are efforts underway to try and change that. Industry advocates are urging lawmakers to continue to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), though Kennedy says it appears that members of Congress don’t want to add any Covid-recovery measures to the $3.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan in process, which is focused largely on climate initiatives, paid leave, childcare, education and healthcare. Because funding the spending plan will impact businesses in the restaurant industry, however, Kennedy is urging operators to add their names to Restaurants Act, a grassroots organization for the restaurant industry that is looking to generate broad support from the restaurant industry in order to urge lawmakers to continue to fund the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. (The fund closed to new applicants in May and according to a recent announcement from the Independent Restaurant Coalition, 82 percent of independent restaurants are concerned they may close permanently if the fund is not replenished.) You can join or learn more about the effort to refill the fund at Restaurantsact.com.