Association to offer COVID-19 training with ‘NC Restaurant Promise’
The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA), the trade association behind NC’s $32.4 billion hospitality industry, sent a letter to NC Governor Roy Cooper on April 30 urging him to allow restaurants to begin to offer social-distanced patio and dine-in service as soon as possible. To help prepare restaurants for reopening, NCRLA today introduced the “North Carolina Restaurant Promise” — a list of public health commitments made by restaurants and guests — along with an associated training program developed by NC State University reflecting CDC guidance and best practices.
“We recognize that COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, and we appreciate Gov. Cooper’s leadership in navigating North Carolina through this emergency,” said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of NCRLA. “Much of our state’s economy has been shut down by the pandemic and subsequent executive orders, and North Carolina businesses and the people who work in them are hurting — none more than restaurants and hospitality. The 550,000 members of our community are ready to get back to work.”
North Carolina’s restaurants are in trouble. They have been the most devastated of any industry, with the current prohibitions on dine-in service leading to more than 300,000 restaurant employees being laid off or furloughed and nearly 70% of all restaurant locations closed or operating at very limited capacity. With each passing day, the outlook becomes more dire for these businesses to survive.
In a recent survey of NCRLA member restaurants:
- 77% said their sales were down 70% or more
- Only 35% of those who applied for the PPP federal relief program received loans. The majority — 65% who applied — did not receive loans
- 65% of those surveyed said their business wouldn’t re-open if it remained closed for two months or more
- Only 35% or restaurants surveyed said they could survive a business closure of more than two months
North Carolina restaurants, working closely and in partnership with the NC Department of Health and Human Services and local health inspectors that regulate our industry, have always operated with an intense focus on safety — food safety, employee safety, and guest safety. NC restaurants are currently offering carryout, drive-thru, and delivery, helping to meet food needs and offering a glimmer of relief and normalcy to customers. As businesses across the state begin to reopen, restaurants are able to safely offer patio and dine-in service, with appropriate social-distancing and other procedures to keep employees and guests safe.
NCRLA has been working diligently with public health experts and restaurants of all sizes to develop standards that can be adopted statewide to allow for a safe and thoughtful reopening. This collaborative effort, led by more than 60 restaurateurs from across the state and representing every sector of the foodservice industry, culminated with the North Carolina Restaurant Promise. All parties involved in developing this strategy recognize that safe reopening depends on a partnership between businesses and their customers. The effort is centered around a COVID-19 training program for restaurant employees developed in concert with state officials and leading food safety experts.
“With an eager eye toward reopening restaurants, we have taken the proactive step of developing the NC Restaurant Promise so we can hit the ground running when the Governor gives the green light,” said Minges. “While we know that reopening measures may come with capacity restrictions that may not be workable for many restaurants, limited dining room service and patio service can be a bridge for some establishments as we work to get back to normal operations.”
Reopening restaurants in mid-May for patio and dine-in service could be the difference between survival and permanent closure for many restaurants. North Carolina restaurants pledge to do everything in their power to operate with a heightened focus on health, hygiene, sanitization and safety — for employees, guests, and communities. In addition to developing the NC Restaurant Promise training, NCRLA has worked with the National Restaurant Association to produce “Reopening Guidance: A Guide for the Restaurant Industry,” a manual developed by an expert panel including Dr. Ben Chapman of NC State University.
Above all, NCRLA is committed to a sustained recovery, and will continue to work closely with businesses, policymakers, customers, and allied partners to ensure that the re-opening of patio and dine-in service is as safe and successful as possible. NCRLA looks forward to the day when restaurants can again be the cornerstones of our communities, providing essential jobs while helping revive North Carolina’s economic engine so our state can continue to offer the essential services necessary to so many.
For more information about NCRLA and to find the latest NC hospitality business resources, visit https://ncrla.help.