One year into the pandemic, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA) is celebrating the significant accomplishments both local and national that, in the face of enormous loss, supported the Pennsylvania restaurant industry and built a foundation for rebuilding in 2021. The accomplishments of the last year have been both large and small, providing access to a myriad of resources that restaurants of all types have used to survive and on which they can continue to rely for recovery.
“Restaurants are the cornerstone of every community, which is why the pandemic’s damage has been so personally felt across Pennsylvania,” said John Longstreet, PRLA President & CEO. “We were committed to standing next to local restaurants throughout this crisis. We worked closely with our partners at the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to advocate for relief programs, and our relentless efforts helped secure a variety of options for every Pennsylvania restaurant.”
The PRLA and the National Restaurant Association united the industry to be the voice of every restaurant in addressing its many needs at all levels of government. Together, they distributed training and operating guidance, communicated safety efforts to customers, and supported industry workers during the hardest days of the pandemic.
Conceiving the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is based on the Senate version of the Restaurants Act and the original plan posed by the National Restaurant Association in March 2020. This fund will help the hardest hit small and medium-sized restaurants kickstart their recovery. PRLA is committed to preparing all eligible restaurant owners to successfully apply for RRF grants.
Securing access to $72+ billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans
At a time when restaurants were most in need of capital, PRLA partnered with the National Restaurant Association to secure expanded access to forgivable loans on two occasions and to refine the program to meet the specific needs of restaurants. In addition, PRLA worked with state officials to ensure PPP loans would not be subject to state personal income tax, which saved businesses more than $200 million.
Collaborating on a grant program specific to the hospitality industry
PRLA worked with elected officials to establish a $145 million grant program specifically for hospitality and tourism businesses. The program, administered at the county level, opened on March 15.
Designing free COVID-19 ServSafe training modules
The safety experts from the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe training program immediately stepped in to create much needed COVID-19 training. The free courses have been accessed more than 1.3 million times.
Providing more than $400,000 in relief to Pennsylvania hospitality workers
PRLA, through its Educational Foundation, established the Hospitality Assistance Response of Pennsylvania (HARP) fund to provide grants to Pennsylvania’s frontline hospitality workers facing economic hardship due to the pandemic. Nearly 1,300 restaurant and hotel workers received $250 stipends.
Creating the first COVID-19 operating guidance for all restaurants & launching the Pennsylvania Restaurant/Hotel Promise
In addition to national guidance developed by the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe training experts, PRLA established the Pennsylvania Restaurant Promise and the Pennsylvania Hotel Promise to provide best practices for restaurants and hotels in navigating state guidelines and safe operating procedures.
Expanding outdoor dining options for every restaurant
PRLA worked with the Wolf Administration to allow restaurants to reopen with outdoor dining while indoor dining was still prohibited. In addition, PRLA worked with the PLCB to expand licensed premise, so that licensees could make use of all outdoor spaces available to them. We continue working with officials to allow for additional expanded areas.
Ordering up cocktails to-go
The PRLA and the National Restaurant Association worked to secure this lifeline in 32 states and D.C.—including Pennsylvania. It was the most significant change to alcohol laws since Prohibition and we are working with state officials to make this a permanent initiative beyond the pandemic.
Developing resources and disseminating information to the industry at-large
PRLA adapted existing and created new publications and programs on the fly to provide the industry at-large with accurate and timely information so operators could make the best possible decisions for their businesses. PRLA distributed more than 1.3 million email newsletters; provided nearly 3,200 minutes of webinars via our weekly update and other industry-related sessions; and opened our online resources to the industry at-large regardless of membership status or ability to pay. Additionally, PRLA was a resource for the press in articulating the pandemic’s impact on the industry with nearly 1,400 placements or mentions in articles and interviews and an estimated audience reach of more than 9 billion impressions.
Increasing consumer confidence in on-premises dining with a national TV campaign.
PRLA partnered with the National Restaurant Association on its first consumer ad campaign welcoming diners back to their favorite local restaurants, highlighting the health and safety practices operators and employees are implementing.
Saving restaurants $15.7 billion with PPP deductibility
Restaurant operators who used their PPP loans to pay qualified expenses didn’t have to worry about surprise federal tax bills because PRLA and the National Restaurant Association got this loophole fixed.
Expanding ERTC to support employment
Employee Retention Tax Credits (ERTC) are key tax benefits used by many restaurants. Because of a change pursued by PRLA and the National Restaurant Association, restaurants can now receive up to $28,000 per eligible employee in ERTC across 2020 and 2021.
“We’ve lost 110,000 restaurants nationwide to the pandemic so far, but the combined efforts of the innovative and hard-working restaurant owners and employees in every community, along with these many accomplishments, may have kept our losses from being far greater,” said Tom Bené, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “While we don’t expect the industry to fully recover this year, the National Restaurant Association and our state restaurant association partners will continue to aggressively pursue the necessary resources to rebuild the industry. Restaurants are an essential part of all our lives, and in the coming year we look forward to welcoming friends and families back to our tables.” •
The latest information about how Pennsylvania restaurants are rebuilding is updated regularly on www.prla.org.