Updated: Apr 16
The State of Texas closed restaurant dining spaces, bars, and other foodservice businesses for at least six weeks to flatten the curve of COVID-19.
The State of Texas closed restaurant dining spaces, bars, and other foodservice businesses for at least six weeks to flatten the curve of COVID-19. With a day’s notice, over 53,000 food and beverage businesses across Texas saw their revenue disappear, their employees leave, and their supplies become waste through no fault of their own.
The scope of this loss is astronomical. In 2019, the restaurant industry was one of Texas’ largest, employing about 1.3 million people, generating $70 billion in sales, and paying an estimated $4.6 billion in taxes. Now, restaurants have lost nearly three times more jobs than any other industry, which for Texas means 700,000 jobs and $4.2 billion in revenue are gone already.
If the restaurant industry cannot recover, these losses will impact the entire Texas economy for years to come. Restaurants are starting to reopen, but they cannot replace weeks of lost revenue and product in the current environment of reduced occupancy and new COVID-related costs. They expected help from Congress and the business interruption insurance policies they purchased, but for many, it hasn’t arrived.
As many as 10% of our state’s restaurants have closed permanently, and that number will grow above 30% if Texas does not implement a comprehensive restaurant survival plan. The Texas Restaurant Survival Plan leverages the billions of dollars in aid that our state will receive from the CARES Act with policy reforms to provide immediate and lasting relief to Texas’ food and beverage businesses. This not only benefits the restaurant industry, but it benefits the entire State of Texas by investing in the front lines of our economy at a time when we need it most. Agenda
1. Create and fund the Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund (FIRF).
2. Award a workforce development grant to deploy high-quality, COVID-19 health and sanitation training to restaurants, bars, and their employees.
3. Continue and expand the regulatory waivers that allow restaurants to sell retail bulk items, sealed containers of alcohol to-go with food orders, and prepared food in grocery stores.
4. Provide tax and fee relief to restaurants and bars that are negatively impacted by COVID-19 and government-mandated closures.
5. Enact liability protections for businesses, including foodservice businesses, that demonstrate reasonable, good-faith efforts to comply with COVID-19 protocols and industry-specific health and safety guidance.
6. Prohibit landlords from evicting or foreclosing restaurants or bars for non-payment of rent or mortgages during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.
7. Suspend any new state or local government mandates set to come into effect for foodservice businesses over the next 120 days.
8. Prohibit third-party delivery companies from charging restaurants predatory fees.
This is Personal
“I had to use a printed-out script when we laid off our employees, and my hands were shaking so badly,” said Jessica Delgado, a restaurant owner from the Rio Grande Valley. “I could barely get the words out through the tears.” Despite facing the most uncertain time the industry has ever seen, Texas’ restaurants, bars, and other foodservice businesses continue to exhibit remarkable resiliency and dedication to their customers and employees.
In Houston, Ricardo Molina runs the two locations of Molina’s Cantina along with his two brothers. A third location is still under construction, and right now he still plans to open it within six weeks. “We’re still here, even if we’re limping along,” Molina said with a laugh. “One day we’re a full-service restaurant, the next day we’re a ghost, just selling to-go.” Molina said he was able to keep nearly every staff member on board, but they are only working about 30% of the hours they were before. Waitstaff have been retrained to manage phone orders, to-go packaging, and curbside carry out. “Our grandparents started this business in 1941, in the middle of a world war,” said Molina.
“I remember my grandpa telling us stories about having to ration everything and deal with price ceilings. We’ve definitely had crazy times before, but this is unimaginable. It’s not just about profit, this just isn’t a business model you’d ever want to deal with.” Molina points to the ability to sell cocktail kits as a life saver for his business and hopes to continue to do so in the future. However, now the rising costs of protein is a concern, and he’s seen prices jump as much as 80% already.
There’s also the worry over rent, and an “unforgiving landlord,” as he describes. He also says he’s concerned about his friends in the industry, knowing full well some of their businesses won’t survive. “It’s depressing to see friends in the industry not doing well, so we reach out and text each other,” Molina said. Despite the obstacles, the hospitality spirit and Houston pragmatism runs deep with the family. “Nobody’s breaking down, we’re just getting with it,” he said. “Come hell or high water, we’re not going to stop.”
Down in McAllen, Larry and Jessica Delgado run the Delgado Collective, three highly acclaimed restaurants that stand out for their cuisine and service in the border city. “This community embraced us from day one,” said Chef Larry Delgado. “We were told that we couldn’t make it, that no one would be able to afford to eat at our restaurants, and we trusted this community to lift us up. Going through this disaster together, even as we’re losing money, we knew we had to keep lifting our community up, too.”