As the cold, dark days of winter carry on, restaurants all over the country are struggling to keep patrons coming in the proverbial door. Despite expensive and elaborate upgrades to help make restaurant dining safer, the one-two punch of the pandemic and frigid temperatures has done a number on restaurants' cash flow. Already, 17% of all restaurants in the United States have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic.
The National Restaurant Association described the industry as being "in an economic free-fall" in their plea to the U.S. House of Representatives, for some economic relief. If no help is received, they expect 58% of restaurants to continue furloughs and layoffs in the first quarter of the year.
There are, however, some big businesses doing their part to support the restaurant industry in its time of need. Capital One, for example, is taking a multi-pronged approach to helping the restaurant industry. One of those initiatives is providing over 30 restaurants nationwide with funding to safely and successfully winterize their outdoor dining options so they can stay open and keep their occupancy up.
"Restaurants are anchors in the communities in which we live and work, which is why we're providing them support so they can better access the tools they need to survive these difficult winter months," says Monica Bauder, Head of Cardholder Access at Capital One. "At Capital One, the dining industry has always been an important community to us and we want to continue to find ways to help them through this difficult time."
Cotogna, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco's Jackson Square, was able to build an outdoor structure with a roof and heaters at each table thanks to Capital One's help. The staff also put olive trees between the tables to act as barriers while maintaining the restaurant's ambiance. Now Cotogna can operate at full capacity entirely outdoors.
Courtesy of Cotogna
"We are really committed to making guests feel safe and comfortable and want them to feel like they're eating at the Cotogna they know and love," says Matt Cirne, Cotogna's beverage director. "Having partners like Capital One that are willing to be creative and really help restaurants navigate the uncertainty that lies ahead is crucial."
Two well-known restaurants in Washington, D.C., ABC Pony and Maketto, have also received support from Capital One during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since everyone uses online reservation services these days, Capital One partnered with SevenRooms to provide complimentary table reservation services to restaurants like them. This service will be invaluable for restaurants whether they're able to be open now or later.
"It's going to be crucially important to have constant communication with our guests once it's safe to reopen our indoor dining rooms to ensure that each person feels comfortable," says Erik Bruner-Yang, a Washington D.C.-based chef who also manages ABC Pony and Maketto. "Capital One's sponsorship of our transition to using SevenRooms as our management system will help keep our guests up-to-date in real-time about our COVID-19 safety practices and other important updates."
The impact on the restaurant industry is changing month-to-month though, which is why Capital One is adapting its support to fit the new needs. For example, the company is also working with Bruner-Yang on The Power of 10, an initiative he created that is helping restaurants keep their employees employed and food insecure communities fed. The initiative found that a restaurant can keep 10 full-time staff employed and make 1,000 meals for frontline healthcare workers and other vulnerable community members with $10,000 a week. So far, the partnership has lead to over 55,000 meals served and 280 jobs saved.
Erik Bruner-YangCourtesy of The Power of 10
In order to help the thousands of restaurant workers who've lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Capital One has also partnered with Get Shift Done, a nonprofit that's hiring impacted restaurant workers to help put together food boxes for food-insecure communities nationwide.
And since keeping a restaurant afloat during the pandemic is an uphill battle, Capital One, the official credit card partner of The James Beard Foundation, hosted a free webinar series for restaurant owners as part of the foundation's Open for Good Initiative. The initiative was designed to act as a guidepost for owners during this unprecedented time when the future looks so uncertain, and provided useful information on cash flow, business credit, human resources, social media, and public relations.
Despite the challenges that businesses have faced - and continue to face - more than two-thirds of business owners remain optimistic that their businesses will return to pre-pandemic operations and revenues, according to a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Capital One Business.
While that optimism is encouraging, it's taken resilience and dedication among business owners to navigate the stressful environment of the past year.
Many businesses, including those in the food services industry, have taken measures to help navigate the economic shutdowns and social distancing mandates brought on by the pandemic. They've adopted contactless payment options, delivery, online ordering and curbside pickup to keep their doors open and stay connected to customers.
To support local restaurants and the broader small business community, Capital One partnered with a coalition of brands and nonprofit organizations to launch Small Unites, a national advocacy program that is providing ongoing support for small businesses across America. As part of Small Unites, anyone can donate to verified small business fundraisers, as well as the Small Business Relief Fund.
Learn more about how Capital One is helping build thriving communities.