Will Guidara in New York City and founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition has been raising the profile of the plight of independent restaurants in high profile appointments this week, including a meeting with US President Trump.
During a roundtable meeting at the White House on Monday, Guidara was one of a group of assembled restaurant executives and industry leaders, including Thomas Keller, pushing Trump to make changes to the $660 billion small-business aid program (Paycheck Protection Program). The aid program was originally enacted amid the coronavirus pandemic and designed to help small businesses to get back up and running again and rehire workers.
Speaking on behalf of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, representing 500,000 independent restaurants across America and the 11 million people working in them, Guidara highlighted the vulnerability of independent restaurants as well as endorsing the plan to make key changes to the PPP including more time to spend the money from their loans in rehiring employees.
Addressing the president Guidara said “We are more vulnerable than a lot of other industries in America. PPP is important, and the changes that have already been talked about are very important. And if those changes are made, I think that will be the thing that allows our restaurants to reopen. That said, we need something more than that, that is specific to independent restaurants, in order for our restaurants to stay open.”
The PPP promises business owners loan forgiveness if they retain or rehire workers they let go when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to temporarily close their doors in an effort to slow the spread, in an industry in which Guidara reminded, "one out of four people who filed for unemployment were restaurant people. One out of four. That’s just insane."
Guidara also stressed the case for fighting for the cultural fabric created by independent restaurants in cities and towns "from the mom and pops, your local diner, the pizza place, the pasta joint and the three-Michelin star restaurant and honestly, everything in between" and the importance of their role in the nation.
The following day, he appeared on "America's Newsroom" and commented on Trump's extraordinary receptiveness to the points raised during the roundtable while highlighting the plight of the industry once more, “we are in a really tough spot and we need support to get back on track.”
For the loans to be forgiven, companies must spend 75 percent on payroll within eight weeks of receiving the money. The other 25 percent can go to rent, utilities and mortgage payments. And with the clock ticking, and restaurants not yet sure if they can re-hire all their staff, time is running out.
“We’re asking to have 24 weeks to spend the money, not eight weeks,” Guidara said, stressing that “restaurants are different than a lot of other businesses that are participating in that program”.