"Small businesses are the backbone of this economy" - President Barack Obama, 2010
There were multiple moments during President Obama's term that he mentioned the importance of small businesses. Small businesses account for ~47% of all US employees: quite a large contribution to the US economy. At the time, I remember arguing with my friends over their true importance. In their opinion, no one really cared about small businesses. They maintained that at the end of the day, our economy hinged on multinational conglomerates–the Amazons and McDonalds of the world. How could that be if time and time again I had heard the President highlight their significance to the economy? There I was, a recent US immigrant, being sold on a tag line.
Restaurants often lie at the center of small business discussions. And if they aren't already, they should be. The industry employs 15 million people making it the nation's second largest private employer. Of those firms, an estimated 99% of them are family-owned businesses employing less than 50 people. Restaurants have been the place where we have celebrated, taken a break, laughed, cried, and learned. TableTab has given us an incredible opportunity to meet the chefs, owners, and artisans that often lay behind closed kitchen doors. And if there's one trait connecting them all, it's their resilience. The industry has never admitted defeat. This time, they might be forced to.
Restaurants have suffered this year: 1 out of 6 have closed up shop. What's been unique about this devastating loss is that given our isolation, the devastation is invisible to many. In our eyes, if we can get a delivery order while binging The Queen's Gambit, restaurants are strong. And while some may call this the end of restaurant dining, I would bet against it. It's the wrong take. Just imagine a world without your favorite brunch spot (and for those who hate brunch, your favorite steakhouse).
It's not new, but COVID-19 is still widespread across the nation. We need to protect each other, and that may require stay-at-home orders. The key issue becomes, how do small business survive? Their business moat entirely stems from physical experiences. Going virtual or adopting delivery might help; however, some restaurants, including our own partners at TableTab, are seeing over half their sales come from dine-in. If they can no longer offer dine-in services because of a global pandemic, government has to support them. If restaurants are to evolve and bounce back stronger, they will almost certainly need a lifeline.
Congress introduced the RESTAURANT Act to provide $120 billion in relief to restaurants, bars, food trucks, and other food establishments. It was introduced on June 18, 2020. It has not moved forward since then. It's quite a simple bill. It lays out the correct requirements (establishments must have fewer than 20 locations) and intends to help the restaurant industry survive. Despite all of this, no further action has been taken.
"Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go." - Anthony Bourdain
Want to help even more? Send us the contact info of a restaurant you know so we can help them bounce back.