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Restaurant Lays Off Workers Via Text

Restaurant Lays Off Workers Via Text


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Cue the 'look at what technology is doing to us!' debate

How touching: A restaurant owner in Winter Park, Fla., decided to tell all his workers that they'd lost their job without prior notice, and all via a mass text message. That's harsher than a text breakup.

WFTV reports that the restaurant, Barducci's Italian Bistro, shut down without prior notice earlier this month. The owner, Gregory Kennedy, sent out a mass text to employees on the Fourth of July, saying, "I unfortunately need to inform you that I have been forced to close Barducci's effective immediately."

More than a dozen employees received the same exact message, WFTV reports, and employees say they're still waiting for their final paychecks from Kennedy. Kennedy responded to WFTV's calls for comment, via text, of course, saying, "Unfortunately businesses are forced to close across Orlando every day especially in the restaurant sector. I am working to resolve issues including final paychecks as quickly as possible."

Watch the news report below.


Restaurant Lays Off Workers Via Text - Recipes

I&rsquom writing this nearly 15 months after we closed our dining room, and I&rsquom so excited to share that we will be reopening Eleven Madison Park on June 10th.

The pandemic brought our industry to its knees. With our closure, we laid off most of our team, and truly didn&rsquot know if there was going to be an Eleven Madison Park.

We kept a small team employed, and with their remarkable effort, in collaboration with the nonprofit Rethink Food, we prepared close to a million meals for New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity. Through this work, I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way, and I also saw a different side of our city &ndash and today I love New York more than ever.

What began as an effort to keep our team employed while feeding people in need has become some of the most fulfilling work of my career. It is a chapter in my life that&rsquos been deeply moving, and for which I am very grateful.

It was clear to me that this work must become a cornerstone of our restaurant.

Therefore, we&rsquove evolved our business model. When we reopen Eleven Madison Park on June 10th, every dinner you purchase will allow us to provide five meals to food-insecure New Yorkers. This food is being delivered by Eleven Madison Truck, which is operated by our staff in partnership with Rethink Food. We&rsquove created a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team, and our suppliers all participate.

In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what EMP would be like after the pandemic &ndash when we started to think about food in creative ways again &ndash we realized that not only has the world changed, but that we have changed as well. We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings, but it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.

We use food to express ourselves as richly and authentically as our craft allows &ndash and our creativity has always been tied to a specific moment in time. In this way, the restaurant is a personal expression in dialogue with our guests.

It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn&rsquot open the same restaurant.

With that in mind, I&rsquom excited to share that we&rsquove made the decision to serve a plant-based menu in which we do not use any animal products &mdash every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more.

We&rsquove been working tirelessly to immerse ourselves in this cuisine. It&rsquos been an incredible journey, a time of so much learning. We are continuing to work with local farms that we have deep connections to, and with ingredients known to us, but we have found new ways to prepare them and to bring them to life.

I find myself most moved and inspired by dishes that center impeccably-prepared vegetables, and have naturally gravitated towards a more plant-based diet. This decision was inspired by the challenge to get to know our ingredients more deeply, and to push ourselves creatively. It wasn&rsquot clear from the onset where we would end up. We promised ourselves that we would only change direction if the experience would be as memorable as before.

We asked ourselves: What are the most delicious aspects of our dishes, and how could we achieve the same level of flavor and texture without meat?

It&rsquos crucial to us that no matter the ingredients, the dish must live up to some of my favorites of the past. It&rsquos a tremendous challenge to create something as satisfying as the lavender honey glazed duck, or the butter poached lobster, recipes that we perfected.

I&rsquom not going to lie, at times I&rsquom up in the middle of the night, thinking about the risk we&rsquore taking abandoning dishes that once defined us.

But then I return to the kitchen and see what we&rsquove created. We are obsessed with making the most flavorful vegetable broths and stocks. Our days are consumed by developing fully plant-based milks, butters and creams. We are exploring fermentation, and understand that time is one of the most precious ingredients. What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface.

All this has given us the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be. It makes us believe that this is a risk worth taking.

It is time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community. A restaurant experience is about more than what&rsquos on the plate. We are thrilled to share the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine while deepening our connection to our homes: both our city and our planet.

I believe that the most exciting time in restaurants is to come. The essence of EMP is stronger than it ever has been. We can&rsquot wait to have you come and experience this new chapter of the restaurant. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.


Line stretches down the block as unemployed restaurant workers look for relief at Mozzaplex

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Robert Rios, 26, Carmen Galen, 23, and their 1-year-old daughter, Alani, stood in line on Highland Avenue, just south of Melrose. They joined about 150 other restaurant workers who had lined up for a free meal and some vital supplies.

On Wednesday night, Nancy Silverton, chef-owner of the Mozzaplex, announced that she, the LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark would turn Chi Spacca into a makeshift crisis relief center. The plan was to prepare and serve 300 meals and supplies to restaurant workers adversely affected by the novel coronavirus shutdown. People of all ages, some wearing gloves, most on their phones, stood 6 feet apart, separated by strips of blue tape the restaurant stuck to the sidewalk.

“We need diapers,” Galen said. “That’s why we’re here.”

On Monday, Galen and Rios were laid off from their jobs. Galen was a server at Buffalo Wild Wings and Rios worked as a server and bartender at Olive Garden and as a server at BJ’s in Montebello.

The two heard about what Silverton was doing via a group text between Rios and his former coworkers.

“We’ve been looking at the news each day trying to see what the government is doing, just looking out for programs like this,” Rios said.

A couple of slots behind him, 42-year-old Brian Treitler stood in line with a mask on his face and black gloves on his hands. Until Sunday night, Treitler had a job as a server at Yardbird restaurant at the Beverly Center and another at C.O.D. restaurant on Third Street. He was hoping to get a meal for himself and his roommate, who also lost his restaurant job last weekend.

During mandated dine-in closures, these restaurants are offering takeout and delivery as the coronavirus pandemic keeps Los Angeles close to home.

“A lot of people, especially the servers, live off of nightly tips. You can file unemployment but sometimes it will take three weeks before the check comes,” Treitler said. “If you don’t have the cash now to get into the store and get food … the fact that this company is doing this is pretty amazing.”

In the kitchen, Silverton and a skeleton crew packed takeout boxes. They prepared three meal options, each packaged with a green salad: roasted chicken thighs with rice and tomatillo sauce a roasted vegetable lasagna or a Bolognese lasagna with garlic mashed potatoes. Each person also received their choice of two supplies.

“Everything turned upside down for us,” Silverton said. “Sometimes in those moments the best thing to do is try to keep busy.”

In the Chi Spacca dining room, the tables and chairs were cleared out to make room for rows of diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, Clorox wipes, boxed macaroni and cheese, lotion, soap and other necessities, all donated by people who reached out wanting to help.

“People that are even in the industry struggling to make ends meet are calling me saying, ‘I want to come work and donate my time,’” Mozza chef Elizabeth Hong said. “I can’t believe it.”

Silverton plans to continue providing 300 meals and available supplies every evening for as long as she can. Maker’s Mark and the Lee Initiative granted Mozza and seven other restaurants around the country $50,000, enough to keep going for at least two weeks. Silverton said that in the day after she announced the effort, she had raised enough to continue for at least a third week.

Kate Green, the Mozzaplex communications director, said its next priority is making sure to get the word out to L.A.’s Spanish-speaking restaurant workers.

Just as the Chi Spacca doors opened to receive the first people in line, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the new “Safer at Home” ordinance, extending the L.A. restaurant dining room shutdown to April 19 from March 31, in effect ensuring that many of the workers waiting in line will continue to be without jobs well into next month.

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Jenn Harris is a columnist for the Food section and host of “The Bucket List” fried chicken show. She has a BA in literary journalism from UC Irvine and an MA in journalism from USC. Follow her @Jenn_Harris_.

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Help Struggling Restaurants via These Creative Campaigns

Looking for ways to support the restaurant industry during the pandemic? There are numerous funds and creative campaigns launched that aim to get much-needed cash to restaurants, and fast. Here’s how to help.

The restaurant industry continues to flounder amid the now months-long shutdown of non-essential businesses. While some have already shuttered their doors, only time will reveal the true damage the virus will have on the restaurant industry. When things reopen, we may be greeted with a new post-pandemic “normal” and, quite possibly, with many of our favorite dining destinations missing from it. To help stem the tide of restaurant closures, it’s incumbent on all of us to support the eateries and food businesses if we’re able.

more ways to help 7 Easy Ways to Support Your Local Businesses During COVID-19 Food brands, individual personalities, and nonprofit organizations have all jumped into the fray to help drive awareness and raise funds for restaurants and restaurant workers in these critical days. Most restaurants operate on extremely tight margins and so direct infusions of cash to keep the lights on and landlords at bay are wholly important. Restaurant workers themselves are facing equal hardship in the face of prolonged unemployment and so several funds have been enacted to support them and their families.

Some of these opportunities to donate present opportunities for you, the consumer, too. From unique restaurant dining bonds that will actually increase in value the industry has gotten creative in giving folks ways to pitch in (and score a little kickback for themselves, too). Of course, there are seemingly endless ways to simply donate too, which is likely the fastest and easiest way to help out a place you love. That and ordering takeout. Here are just a few of the different efforts around the country you can get involved in to help save restaurants and help restaurant workers.


Exxon Mobil to workers: Job cuts are coming

6:00 PM on Oct 21, 2020 CDT

Exxon Mobil Corp. plans to lay off an unspecified number of employees as low oil prices force the company to delay major projects, the company said in an email to staff.

“These are difficult times,” Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said in the message, the text of which was released by the company Wednesday. “We are making tough decisions, some of which will result in friends and colleagues leaving the company.”

The oil behemoth’s job cut is just the latest sign of struggle among U.S. energy producers seeking to weather the industry’s worst downturn in recent memory. Just this week two high-profile mergers were announced as explorers seek to gain scale and cut costs to survive the devastating impact of COVID-19 on global demand for fuel.

Earlier this month, Irving-based Pioneer Natural Resources laid off about 300 employees in its corporate office and Permian Basin operations.

Exxon’s stock has plunged and the company has all but ended its aggressive, $30 billion-a-year counter-cyclical growth strategy. The company was forced to slash its capital spending budget by a third, or $10 billion, earlier this year. Rivals such as BP Plc and Chevron Corp. have also announced large layoffs in recent weeks.

“Our plan is to continue to stage project execution and spending,” Woods said. “Making the organization more efficient and more nimble will reduce the number of required positions and, unfortunately, reduce the number of people we need.”

Exxon’s stock has plunged 52% this year and briefly lost its long-held crown as America’s top oil and gas producer to Chevron Corp. Its dividend yield stands at more than 10% suggesting that investors believe it may be cut for the first time in at least four decades.


The number of job vacancies soared to nearly 15 million by mid-March, but discouraged, hesitant and fearful job seekers means many positions are still unfilled, according to new data from online job site ZipRecruiter.

Online job postings plunged from 10 million before the start of the pandemic last year to just below 6 million last May, as lockdowns and shutdown orders forced businesses to close their doors and reduce or lay off workers.

Now, as vaccinations increase and companies are again able to make projections, they’re staffing up to capture booming demand, with the number of open positions across all online listings soaring 5 million above the pandemic’s start.

“That really is the vaccination job boom,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist for ZipRecruiter. “Employers are taking permanent steps now to plan for a permanent reopening.”

As states have lowered vaccination age requirements dramatically in recent weeks to include almost all working-age residents, Americans are venturing out again in greater numbers. They’re getting on planes, going to the gym, going out to eat, and some have started trickling back to offices in specific industry sectors.

From amusement parks to gyms to airlines, employers across industries are holding massive job fairs and calling back furloughed workers.

But the civilian labor force participation rate, the government’s measurement of those who are working or unemployed but actively seeking work, remains dented, having only recovered by about half.

Workers say they were were discouraged after blasting out résumés in January and February.

But those who have already given up, just before the latest hiring boom, may not have got the message yet about their improved chances.

“When people lose their jobs, they often engage in a flurry of job search activity, they send off 20 applications, and then they sit back and wait to hear back from employers," Pollak said. "So many people are most engaged in their job search early on when it was most discouraging and their prospects were bleakest."

However, the situation has vastly improved since the beginning of the year, she said.

“Job seeker confidence has gone down between January and March at exactly the moment that their prospects have improved,” Pollak said. “It'll take a while before people really notice the labor market has heated up.”

There are also plenty of good reasons for workers to still hang back, from ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, to childcare and managing remote learning, to family obligations, to holding out for better opportunities.

Economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, have also played a factor for some who are sitting out the labor market, some employers say.

Factory owners and employers lament that the generosity of unemployment benefits and stimulus payments have some workers avoiding returning to work because they make more money not working.

“I had one guy quit who said I can make more on unemployment. I’ll take the summer off,” said Robert Stevenson, CEO of Eastman Machine Company, a producer of machines that cut specialty fabrics for industry. “I told him I can’t guarantee you’ll have your job back. He said, ‘I’ll take my chances.’”

But there may also be other unstated factors at play, experts say.

“It’s not just labor demand and supply, these are tough working conditions,” said Bhushan Sethi, global people and organization co-leader at PwC consulting agency.

“I can’t underscore enough the real concern of individuals,” he said. “Am I safe? Will I be forced to trade personal safety around the virus and variants for a job?”

The new job listings are in areas that are reopening, like travel, leisure, and hospitality, but also in remote work and tech areas. Demand remains for workers in jobs that got a pandemic boost like construction, delivery, logistics and warehousing, and vaccine administration.

The gap also speaks to “the lack of ability to match up needs and hire thousands of workers” quickly, Sethi said.

Nearly half of job seekers say they would like a remote job, even after the pandemic, according to ZipRecruiter. But questions arise as to whether a laid-off restaurant or retail worker can transition to online customer service, or become a web designer or cybersecurity consultant.

Some will have the technical skills and desire. Others may need to enroll in online courses to “reskill.” That requires knowing what skills are in demand, having the ability to use a computer and internet connection to obtain them, and the funds to go through the course. Some of the burden lies on the worker to make sure they’re relevant and competitive.

Reskilling and retraining is also a key focus for the new administration.

“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and from the middle out, not the top down,” President Joe Biden said in remarks when when he introduced the American Jobs Plan on March 31.

The $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes $100 billion to fund workforce training programs. It would also call for up to an additional 2 million apprenticeship slots. The Department of Labor’s Dislocated Workers Program would also receive $40 billion and $12 billion for women and minorities in workforce development.

"More investment is required to train Americans for good-paying jobs across industries ranging from construction to energy to manufacturing to technology to caregiving," according to a White House statement released in February.

Now, companies are trying to coax people off the sidelines by increasing wages, allowing for more remote work, looking at skills and not just experience. That’s a marked contrast to the rehiring after the recession of 2008 when employers could be quite picky and would layer on skill requirements.

The pandemic started with historic layoffs, but American workers may come out of it with more bargaining power than they’ve had in a while.

“Job seekers still have a tremendous amount of leverage,” Pollak said. “They may not know it because of the horrible experience of looking for a job between April 2020 and January 2021 — but February and March are different worlds."


Logan's Roadhouse

Shutterstock

This Nashville, Tennessee-based steakhouse has been through a lot. The restaurant chain, which operated 230 locations throughout 23 states, filed for bankruptcy in 2016, but then exited bankruptcy by the end of that year. In 2018, the chain was acquired by Craftworks Holdings: a multi-brand operator and franchisor specializing in brewery restaurants. In addition to Logan's Roadhouse, the holding company owns eight other restaurant chains, including Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, and Big River Grille & Brewing Works.

When states mandated that restaurants and bars close due to coronavirus, Craftworks couldn't keep their restaurants afloat. In March 2020, Craftworks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and then announced in April that all Logan's Roadhouse locations would remain closed indefinitely and is considering whether the doors will stay closed for good.


What Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill Means for Restaurants, Workers, and Families

As the pandemic drags on into its second year — and as cases plateau in New York, Texas, New Jersey, and elsewhere — millions of hospitality workers remain jobless, over 110,000 food service establishments have reportedly closed, and millions of people, particularly Black folks, have been pushed past the brink of poverty. President Joe Biden, accordingly, signed into law today the third COVID-19 stimulus package — this one coming in at $1.9 trillion — to help some of the people and institutions hit hardest by the virus.

The American Rescue Plan, as it’s known, is the first package of its kind to truly target restaurants, helping food service establishments around the country avoid closure through billions in grants. The law could also help extricate over 16 million people from impoverishment, according to the Urban Institute, offering them thousands more in aid dollars than previous stimulus bills.

Let’s start with that good news. A key part of the bill, modeled after the so-called RESTAURANTS proposal, allocates $28.6 billion to assist restaurants, food trucks, bars, and street vendors in paying their back rent, mortgages, and pretty much anything else. For cash-strapped workers and their families, stimulus payments will go out to the tune of $1,400 per person. The bill also temporarily boosts the child tax credit to up to $3,600 per dependent, which will be paid out in advance installments as a universal basic income of sorts. Congress also authorized over $22 billion more in housing assistance, and anyone who’s been laid off during the pandemic will now find that they shouldn’t have to pay anything to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance. And gig workers like food delivery couriers — who don’t normally qualify for state unemployment aid — will see their benefits extended through the summer’s end.

The tougher news is that the bill, which received no Republican votes, was a compromise effort among a slim Democratic majority in the Senate. That means a few more progressively minded initiatives fell by the wayside. Enhanced jobless aid will remain at $300 per week, instead of shooting up to $400, due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin. As a result, many out-of-work restaurant staffers in New York will continue to collect little more than the minimum wage, even after adding federal aid onto state unemployment assistance.

How a single parent could benefit from Biden’s stimulus

Let’s assume the parent of two is a cook who earns $33,140, the New York City median wage for that job.

Stimulus checks: $1,400 x 3 = $4,200

Child tax credit: $3,600 (5-year-old) + $3,000 (9-year-old) = $6,600. Half of that amount will be paid out periodically from late July through December the rest will come as a check with next year’s taxes.

Enhanced unemployment: If the parent becomes unemployed in March, they’ll be eligible for $300 in aid every week through the last week of August.

Total: $10,800 from stimulus and tax credits, plus another $7,500 from 25-weeks of enhanced unemployment aid. This individual would also receive $318 per week in state unemployment aid and thousands more from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Hospitality staffers around the country, incidentally, won’t get raises when they return to the workforce because the effort to hike the minimum wage to $15 sputtered. The rescue plan also doesn’t do much to help undocumented workers, who make up such a huge part of the hospitality industry.

Finally, many of the act’s boldest provisions, like the advance payments on child tax credits, expire this year. And even though the pandemic is still killing thousands every day, Congress didn’t move to reauthorize mandatory paid sick leave, which lapsed late last year. The benefit, which Biden sought to expand, required employers to pay for up to two weeks of COVID-related leave. In the past, the U.S. government has shown itself to be quite capable of swiftly enacting longer-lasting and expensive policy changes, so it’s frustrating that it’s so tough to establish simple economic and health protections against a deadly virus in a way that doesn’t require a bitter new debate every few months.

That aside, here’s everything you need to know about the American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law on March 11 — days before benefits from the previous stimulus expired.

What do we need to know about the restaurant relief?

The bill will allocate nearly $30 billion in funds to devastated food service establishments, including bars, food trucks, and vendors. Unlike the Paycheck Protection Program, which saddled restaurants with burdensome loans if the bulk of the funds weren’t spent on payroll, these restaurant relief dollars are grants, plain and simple. Grant sizes will generally be determined by subtracting a venue’s 2020 pandemic-era receipts from higher 2019 gross receipts. A few quick points:

  • Over $5 billion will be set aside for smaller venues whose annual gross receipts were below $500,000, leaving $23.6 billion for everyone else.
  • Grants will be capped at $10 million for restaurant groups and $5 million for individual venues.
  • Publicly traded companies or restaurants with more than 20 locations won’t be eligible.
  • For the first 21 days, establishments owned by women, veterans, or economically and socially disadvantaged groups will be prioritized.
  • If a restaurant has received a PPP loan, that amount will be subtracted from the potential grant amount.
  • Funds must be used by the end of the year.

Whether this aid will actually be fairly distributed, even with the 21-day period for disadvantaged owners, is a more complicated question. The bill states that the administrator — the Small Business Administration — will award grants equitably, but on a first come, first served basis, something that could give larger restaurant groups a natural leg up. In addition, the program doesn’t appear to allocate specific funds for hard-hit regions like New York or other major cities. One also wonders whether whether the $28.6 billion in funding — down from the initial ask of $120 billion — will be sufficient for every restaurant that wants aid. It won’t be.

If we assume every low-revenue restaurant applying needs $250,000, the $5 billion set aside for that group should take care of at least 20,000 restaurants, which isn’t too shabby. By contrast, it would take less than 5,000 restaurants requesting $5 million to hit the limit on the remaining $23 billion. For context, there were nearly 700,000 restaurants throughout the country in the years before the pandemic.

Or here’s another point of reference: If you look at the difference between April 2019 and April 2020 revenues across the industry — including for venues that are excluded from the program — you get a $33 billion gap. That’s for a single month, even though the restaurant relief provisions, with $28 billion in funds, are designed to help food service establishments bounce back from an entire year.

Speed will be of the essence when awarding grants, as restaurants across the country have been operating under the strain of limited capacity for about a year now. A New York Hospitality Alliance survey showed that 92 percent of surveyed restaurants could not pay their full rent in December. At least 1,000 restaurants have closed in New York and over 110,000 have shuttered nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association. The bill does not announce a start date for restaurant relief.

How big are the stimulus checks?

Americans earning less than $75,000 will receive $1,400 checks, while joint filers should receive a single $2,800 check. Under previous stimulus packages, however, individual taxpayers who earned up to $99,000 would still receive a partial benefit under the current aid bill, those smaller benefits phase out more quickly. If you earn above $80,000, or if your joint tax return is above $160,000, you’ll no longer qualify. Still, at these salary limits, most hospitality workers should receive a check when they start going out — possibly as early as this weekend.

Taxpayers with children should receive $1,400 per dependent, up from $600 under the previous stimulus. That means a couple jointly earning $125,000 with three children should receive $7,000.

How much will folks receive under the new child care tax credit?

Parents will receive a credit of up to $3,000 per child in 2021, or up to $3,600 for a child under 6. That’s up from the current level of $2,000. Those amounts would apply to families earning under $150,000, or heads of households earning under $112,500. The credit is now fully refundable, meaning that filers should receive the full benefit even if they have no tax liability. A single mother with two children — one of them under 6 — should receive $6,600 under this program, or $2,200 more than before.

The bill would also send out the tax benefit in the form of monthly checks — from late July until the end of December — versus via a once-a-year tax reduction. Those checks would equal half the benefit, with the rest coming during the following year’s tax season. That could mean up to $300 per month per child. This particular benefit should noticeably improve the financial situation of hospitality workers who are parents — folks who’ve seen their income plummet — as it effectively sets up a form of universal basic income. For the working poor whose savings have been tapped by the cruelty of the pandemic, a regular benefit starting this summer is entirely more useful than seeing a reduction in taxes a year from now. The enhanced tax credit and payment system expire at the year’s end, but Democrats are sure to argue for an extension.

What type of supplemental checks will jobless folks receive?

Jobless workers will continue to collect the $300 weekly enhanced Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) checks that they’ve been receiving since the beginning of the year. That benefit, which was set to expire March 14, will now continue through the first week of September. Biden initially proposed $400 and extending the checks until the end of that month, but Sen. Manchin fought back that effort, arguing that the more generous benefit would have discouraged folks from going back to work (a claim that studies have disputed). As part of the resulting compromise, workers won’t owe taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits from last year. A tax expert told CNET that such a tweak would not have a meaningful impact on the poorest workers folks with a higher income could benefit, however.

So a New York City waiter earning the city median of $31,780 a year would qualify for roughly $305 per week on regular state unemployment, which would then go up to $605 thanks to the supplemental checks. That’s the equivalent of $15.13 an hour, barely above the minimum wage — and well below the living wage for Manhattan, which is $21.77 for single folks without children. If the $400 limit had been adopted, and had it been allowed to run through the end of September, that could’ve meant an extra $3,700 or so per jobless worker over the course of the benefits period (notwithstanding the potential tax benefit).

Will gig workers like food delivery drivers get an unemployment extension?

Yes. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides assistance to freelancers, food delivery workers, ride-hailing service drivers, and others who don’t always qualify for normal state unemployment assistance, will be extended until the end of August. In New York, however, undocumented residents make up the bulk of the delivery workforce they are ineligible for these benefits.

Is there any mandatory sick leave like in the first relief package?

No. Mandatory paid COVID-19 sick leave lapsed at the end of the year during the peak of the winter surge. That left millions of hospitality workers vulnerable to loss of income if they fell ill with the virus. Biden’s initial proposal would have reinstated that policy and expanded upon it, boosting required paid leave from two weeks to 14 weeks, offering up to $1,400 per week.

The American Rescue Plan won’t require any mandatory paid leave it will instead extend and expand optional tax credits that will reimburse businesses that choose to give leave. Those credits will expire in September. To be clear, residents of New York City already have strong protections in this regard, and should be able to take off and earn pay when out sick, regardless of immigration status. But in other areas of the country, even as the pandemic rages on, sick leave has transitioned from being an affirmative right for vulnerable and underpaid employees to an optional administrative burden for employers.

What type of health insurance protections will laid-off cooks, waiters, and other workers benefit from?

Starting April 1, employers or insurers will have to pay the full cost of an ex-employee’s COBRA premium through the end of September. Under the old draft House bill, an employee’s obligation would’ve been for 15 percent of the premium. This enhanced measure should go a long way toward protecting the health of jobless hospitality workers, as the average monthly cost for family COBRA plans is over $1,700, according to the Kaiser Family Health Foundation.

Employers or insurers will be able to recoup the costs of this provision via tax credits.

The bill would also temporarily increase subsidies for the Affordable Care Act and cap how much policyholders would have to pay, limiting that amount to 8.5 percent of one’s income, down from 10 percent.

What type of housing assistance does the bill include?

As unemployed restaurant workers struggle to pay rent and stay in their homes, another tranche of rental assistance and other programs will come in handy — when those funds are actually delivered. The American Rescue Plan provides roughly $22 billion to the states for assisting tenants with rental costs, arrears, and home energy costs. Another $5 billion will go toward emergency rental vouchers, while another $5 billion goes toward homeless prevention.

The billions in housing aid are in addition to the $25 billion in housing aid under the last stimulus, the bulk of which hasn’t been allocated to residents in New York and elsewhere. Those funds are currently held up in the Empire State budget process, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier in March. Put more succinctly: It’s anyone’s best guess when New York residents behind on their rent and possibly facing eviction will be able to see any of these funds.

What type of food aid is there in the relief bill?

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits rose by 15 percent in the December stimulus package, up to $234 per month. That aid will now last a few more months, through the end of September, instead of expiring at the end of June. States will also be able to continue with the Pandemic-EBT, which provides free or reduced lunches to the families of children whose schools are closed.

What happened to the $15 minimum wage and the elimination of the tipped minimum wage?

It’s complicated, but the short version is that those proposals, found in an earlier House version of the bill, failed to pass a crucial parliamentary test. So even though restaurant workers have seen their tips decline as they enforce health protocols like mask wearing, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that areas opening for on-premises dining exhibited higher death rates 11 weeks later, and even though states like Texas and Mississippi are ending mask mandates and increasing restaurant capacity to 100 percent, those workers won’t get mandatory raises as they start working more shifts and exposing themselves to more harm.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that only Paycheck Protection Loans issued on or after December 27, 2020 would be subtracted from restaurant relief grants.


Quick Bites April 22, 2020 | Gilda’s on the Santa Cruz Wharf permanently closes

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SANTA CRUZ

Gilda’s Restaurant on the Wharf permanently closes

On Monday, Gilda’s Restaurant announced, after being closed for the last few weeks due to the pandemic, that it will not reopen. A family member posted on Facebook “It is with a very heavy heart my family is announcing the closure of their longstanding restaurant on the Santa Cruz Wharf. Gilda’s Restaurant will not reopen for business. The Stagnaro Family wishes to thank all staff and patrons for their loyalty and friendship over the years.” The Stagnaros started their first restaurant on the Wharf in the 1930s. Gilda’s (http://www.gildas-restaurant.com), at 37 Municipal Wharf, served customers for decades.

SANTA CRUZ

Farmers markets add senior shopping

Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets, which operates the current Wednesday Downtown, Saturday Westside Santa Cruz and Sunday Live Oak markets, recently added a Senior Shopping period. This is 30 minutes prior to each market’s opening time, so “seniors only” will be admitted from 12:30-1 p.m. at Downtown and 8:30-9 a.m. at Westside and Live Oak. These markets are continuing to follow strict safety guidelines. Read more at http://www.santacruzfarmersmarket.org/sc-community-farmers-markets-and-covid-19. Also, the 2020 seasons for the fundraising Popup Breakfasts and FoodShed Project have been canceled due to COVID-19. They will return in 2021.

SANTA CRUZ

Bottle Jack Winery announces specials, Lago di Como partnership

Bottle Jack Winery has several shelterin place special offers. Buy three or more bottles of any wine and receive a 20 percent discount (30 percent for club members) and free local deliveries in Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. Bottle Jack is offering six-pack specials featuring new releases of 2019 Viognier, 2018 Chardonnay, and a flight of Cabernet Sauvignon at wholesale pricing (33 percent discount) for a limited time, and free shipping with minimum three-bottle purchase. Also, the winery is partnering with Lago di Como Ristorante for advance food purchase and pickup at the tasting room on Saturdays. Menu options include prepared foods like lasagna, pastas, and tiramisu, as well as pizza kits and a la carte items. To order wines and food, go to bottlejackwines.com. The winery’s tasting room, 328D Ingalls St., is open for wine purchases and pickup including curbside delivery on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Call 831-227-2288 or email [email protected]

SANTA CRUZ

Hollins House adds groceries

Hollins House, located at the Pasatiempo Golf Club, is now doing “Grocery Bags” in addition to takeout food. There are two choices, each priced at $30, and contents change each week. One may include selections such as flour, milk, yeast, eggs, butter, and toilet paper, with another featuring asparagus, garlic, organic berries, and other produce. You can add a pound of coffee to either for an extra fee. These must be ordered by 3 p.m. one day in advance and are available for pick-up on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 3-7pm. Pre-order by emailing [email protected] or calling 831-459-9177. Also, Hollins House has “pre-marinated proteins” to cook at home, such as Jamaican Jerk chicken and Korean Bavette steak. Find out details about these and the regular takeout (curbside pickup) menu at Instagram (thehollinshouse) or https://www.thehollinshouse.com/covid-19/

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY

Newest restaurant/vendor changes and closures

Due to the shelter-in-place order, some restaurants have decided to temporarily close while others recently shifted their offerings.

On April 21, Alderwood (155 Walnut Ave.), formerly open Tuesday-Sunday 4-8 p.m., changed its hours to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and expanded its takeout menu to include dinnertime pasta and steaks. Fresh-baked pastries, drip coffee, brunch cocktails, breakfast burritos, and breakfast sandwiches are available until 2 p.m. Call 831-588-3238 or 831-888-6901, see https://www.alderwoodsantacruz.com/.

East End Gastropub (1501 41st Ave.), which has been open for takeout daily from 2-8 p.m. except Mondays, recently started partnering with local wineries to offer a rotating “dinner for two.” This includes wine, appetizer, salad, pasta, and dessert. Call 831-475-8010 or see http://eastendpub.com.

El Palomar has revised its hours it is closed Mondays effective April 20, and open Tuesday-Friday 2-7:30 p.m., Saturday noon to 7 p.m., and Sun noon to 6 p.m., see Instagram and Facebook @elpalomarrestaurant for specials including family packages.

Hakouya, which makes probiotic miso dressing plus handmade miso paste, quick miso soup base, and more, is temporarily offering free, local delivery for customers spending at least $30. Email [email protected] to order see Hakouya.com to learn about their products.

Otoro Sushi (235 Mt. Hermon Road, Suite G) is offering a roll of toilet paper for orders of $50 or more those that order $75 or more also get hand sanitizer. Scotts Valley residents get free delivery. Call 831-440-9040 or visit https://www.facebook.com/OtoroSushiScottsValley. They’re open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

The Penny Ice Creamery reopened its Pleasure Point location last Saturday, but will be open weekends only (Saturday-Sunday 1-8 p.m.). The downtown location remains open daily from 1-8 p.m. They recently added a sundae kit (for $16, you get one ice cream pint, chocolate sauce, organic whipped cream, and other toppings). You can order at the ice cream shop or online, at https://www.thepennyicecreamery.com.

Dharma’s (4250 Capitola Rd., 831-462-1717) which has been closed since March 16, is reopening Friday for takeout and delivery. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Visit https://dharmasrestaurant.com.

Johnny’s Harborside (493 Lake Ave.) is temporarily closed and may not reopen until late June.

Rosie McCann’s (1220 Pacific Ave.) is closed until further notice.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY

Restaurants and vendors with take-out or delivery

During the last several weeks we have been publishing restaurants and food vendors that are offering services or are closed due to SC county’s current shelter-in-place. See links to the previous QB columns: https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2020/03/17/quick-bites-restaurants-pivot-offer-delivery-and-to-go-options/, https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2020/03/24/quick-bites-coronavirus-restaurants-rally-during-shelter-in-place/, https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2020/04/06/quick-bites-coronavirus-local-restaurants-rally-with-to-go-orders/, https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2020/04/07/quick-bites-food-ice-cream-and-wine-delivery, and https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2020/04/14/quick-bites-bittersweet-bistro-adds-dairy-pantry-items.

Here are more restaurants and vendors, in alphabetical order, offering takeout (some with curbside pickup) and/or delivery:


How to Save Restaurants

Rebuilding the restaurant business requires a new model for its labor.

Glenn Vaulx III preparing a takeout order at the Four Way in Memphis. Credit. Whitten Sabbatini for The New York Times

Ms. Krishna is a journalist and the author of the cookbook “Indian-ish.”

When the pandemic hit America’s restaurants, it was as if an anvil dropped — on a bubble.

To run a restaurant, any kind of restaurant, is a constant struggle to keep that bubble aloft. Every day is a negotiation: of labor costs, food costs, rent, insurance, health inspections, and the art and craft of creating an experience special enough to keep people coming through the doors. When the pandemic lockdown forced hundreds of thousands of establishments to close, there was no backup plan. No one was prepared for the extent of the fallout.

The restaurant and fast food industry, the second-largest private employer in the United States, collapsed overnight. At least 5.5 million jobs evaporated by the end of April, and the number of people employed in food services is still 2.5 million fewer than in February. Technomic, a consulting firm for the food-service industry, estimates that 20 percent to 25 percent of independently owned restaurants will never reopen. And those restaurants uphold an ecosystem that extends to farms, fishmongers, florists, ceramists, wineries and more. The damage has been so severe that the James Beard Foundation announced in August that it would cancel its restaurant awards this year because of the pandemic and a need to re-examine structural bias.

The most deeply affected were restaurant workers, who were either laid off so that they could file for unemployment or were asked to keep working and risk their health. These are people who often do not have access to health insurance, earn less than a living wage and disproportionately include undocumented workers, immigrants, and Black and brown people — the most marginalized people in this country.

As the country begins to open up and restaurants slowly invite customers back in — New York City announced on Wednesday that indoor dining could resume at 25 percent capacity — many of those same people are being asked to come back to work, with no change to their compensation or promises of assistance in case they get sick. (A number of restaurants have even had to close after reopening because workers tested positive for the virus.)

It’s unfathomable to imagine a country without restaurants, but even more unfathomable to imagine a successful economic recovery that doesn’t include restaurant employees. As such a large slice of the American work force, they are not only essential to growth. How we support them will be a litmus test for whether the United States can ever build a fair, equitable economy.

Rebuilding the restaurant business can’t be just about diversifying revenue streams. It requires rethinking how employers and patrons value labor, which means shifting the restaurant model to one that’s centered on workers.

The onus for change should not fall solely on restaurants. The success of a worker-centered approach, especially in the middle of a recession, requires cooperation from customers and help from government. With many restaurants now welcoming customers who are tiring of home cooking after an extended lockdown, and getting national attention by policymakers, this is the time to make a structural shift.

The restaurants best equipped to kick-start this change won’t be those that are part of larger empires in densely populated, high-cost-of-living cities like New York and San Francisco. In fact, outside the fast-food industry, many restaurants in America have only one location. These are the places that don’t have a large corporate infrastructure. They are run by a small group of people, often family members. They buy ingredients from local producers. They are the lifeblood of their communities, and for them, survival is about more than just keeping a business running.

They are restaurants like the Four Way, a 74-year-old soul-food institution in Memphis. At the beginning of March, it was racking up record sales of its fried catfish and peach cobbler. Once the pandemic hit, Patrice Bates Thompson, the owner, had to make changes fast. Like many other restaurateurs, she shifted to mostly takeout and delivery, has been buying her employees groceries when purchasing food for the restaurant and is helping a few of them cover their utility bills.

Nearly every restaurant that survived the pandemic so far has had to adjust its operations to survive. The shift to takeout is perhaps the most visible and lasting change for restaurants. Takeout and delivery services have allowed thousands of restaurants all over the country to survive, and the experience is evolving as restaurants apply their creativity to this now ubiquitous form. Seven Reasons, a fine-dining restaurant in Washington, bundles orders with cocktails in Mason jars and sends customers links to Spotify playlists to listen to while they’re eating — a lockdown-appropriate approximation of dining out. Junzi Kitchen, a mini-chain of Chinese restaurants in New York and Connecticut, was inspired by restaurants in China to design an interactive, rotating takeout menu, with an accompanying Instagram Live by the chef, Lucas Sin, explaining the story behind each dish and how to plate it. Other restaurants have turned into grocery stores, offering their premium ingredients to home cooks. The New York restaurateur Gabriel Stulman started selling meal kits out of his West Village spot, Jeffrey’s Grocery, so that customers can replicate popular dishes at home.

These innovations will certainly help restaurants to hang on in the near term, keep paying their employees and even increase revenue once dine-in service is more prevalent.

But they don’t confront the larger issue: The business model of restaurants is built on the assumption of cheap labor. One out of six restaurant workers live below the poverty line, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and the industry has an exceptionally high turnover rate — 75 percent in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with 49 percent for the rest of the private sector. In other words, jobs in the restaurant industry look increasingly like gig work — unstable, poorly paid and with few protections for workers.

To make it worse, the practice of tipping front-of-house workers (servers, bartenders and hosts), which is deeply ingrained in the culture and business model of restaurants, creates a disparity in income between front- and back-of-the-house workers, privileges white workers, who are more likely to work in the front of the house, and fuels sexual harassment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median hourly wage for cooks is $12.67 and $11 for servers, but the I.R.S. estimates that about 40 percent of tips go unreported, which would inflate that server’s hourly wage to $15.40.

Anakaren Ibarra-Dumovich, a former sous chef at Rye Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., said that too many restaurants are reopening without considering what relying on tips for income means for workers. If people aren’t dining out as much, she explained, tip income could fall drastically and workers could end up returning to the same job for much less money. But if you’re offered work and don’t take it, you no longer qualify for unemployment. “Either you work and risk potential exposure and make no money or you lose all of it,” she said. “It is scary.”

Devita Davison, the executive director of FoodLab Detroit, an incubator for socially minded food businesses, believes the industry needs to use this period of upheaval to think more radically. “The question is not ‘What does the restaurant look like?’ but ‘What does it mean to have a profitable restaurant?’” she said. “Because guess what, for the sake of profitability, who suffers?”

This is the harder question, and one that a few restaurants are starting to answer. One of FoodLab’s partner restaurants, PizzaPlex, in southwest Detroit, is already working to generate enough revenue to become a worker-owned cooperative, where every employee has a financial stake in the business and has a say in major decisions. For the owners, Alessandra Carreon and Drew McUsic, the goal is not to maximize profits for the two of them but to redistribute the wealth generated by their restaurant back into the community.

There are other ways for a restaurant to change its relationship with workers. Melissa Miranda owns Musang in Seattle, a restaurant she calls “Filipinx” to honor the genderqueer people she knows among immigrants from the Philippines in white American neighborhoods. She instituted a single hourly wage across the board, with a tip pool divided by hours of work. She closed Musang for dine-in service before the stay-at-home order was issued in Seattle, because many of her employees live in multigenerational homes with older family members.

She turned the restaurant into a community kitchen open two days a week, where people can pick up a free meal on a first come first served basis. Her team delivers meals three days a week, and that work is supported by donations from suppliers and customers. (About 75 percent of online orders include donations, she said.) Musang’s takeout and outdoor dining sales are buoying the kitchen’s work as well, now that revenue has returned almost to what it was before the pandemic and the restaurant is profitable again.

The pandemic forced Ms. Miranda to re-examine what it means to run a restaurant: How do you provide health insurance during a pandemic when margins are so slim? What do you do with front-of-house workers when you’re a long way from dine-in service? How can you mentor employees and encourage them to become business owners themselves?

She has made some concrete changes. She eliminated tipping and plans to offer everyone on her staff health care and retirement benefits. She has reduced the size of her staff so that she can pay them more — between $25 and $30 an hour — and spend more time on training them and teaching them about the business. “I have worked in this industry a long time,” Ms. Miranda told me. “I never had a 401(k) or benefits or anyone looking out for my financial future.” Musang, she hopes, will be different. The old-school model of restaurants is exclusively about revenue. “We didn’t build this restaurant for that,” she said. “We built this restaurant with the intent to make change.” She wants it to be the last place her employees work before they open up their own restaurant.

Francesca Hong, the chef and a co-owner of Morris Ramen in Madison, Wis., also started a community kitchen, which she and another restaurant group, Rule No. One, have expanded into an initiative called Cook It Forward Madison. The project works with nonprofits to provide meals to people in need. In turn, the nonprofits provide the restaurant with financial and technical assistance, like accounting and legal aid.

That aid, plus donations through Cook It Forward Madison, allowed her to offer 100 percent of her staff their jobs back. (About three-quarters of them accepted.) It also means that she gets to keep buying from local farms and other producers, ensuring that those benefiting from the restaurant include not just her employees, but also the broader community of workers that support it. (Ms. Hong has also become more active in the community politically she is a candidate for a Wisconsin State Assembly seat.)

All of this effort to come up with new business models will accomplish little unless restaurant patrons understand the true costs of labor. Communication is key. Ms. Miranda, for example, has raised menu prices while trying to keep the restaurant accessible to locals. “If we were to introduce a 20 percent service charge, that would be a bit of a shock,” she said. So she has shifted the restaurant’s repertoire to more vegetable-heavy dishes, so that she can spend less on meat and more on employee compensation. The menu includes a note to customers on how the cost of taking care of employees is factored into food prices. Not being transparent with guests “is where the pushback happens,” she told me.

The rustic Berkshires restaurant, the Prairie Whale in Great Barrington, Mass., reopened in June for outdoor dining, adding a 3 percent kitchen service charge to offset the pay discrepancy between its front-of-house and back-of-house workers. Claire Sprouse, who runs Hunky Dory, an all-day cafe in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, announced in July that she was reopening the restaurant’s outdoor patio, but with no tipping and slightly increased menu prices.

The biggest argument against worker-centric systems is an economic one: Who is going to want, much less be able, to pay more for meals in the middle of a recession? And reduced capacity in restaurants will also mean reduced labor. Not every restaurant will be able to make big changes many have always been in survival mode and lack the resources to alter how they do business. When Jacklyn Pham’s father opened Saigon Pagolac, a Vietnamese restaurant in Houston’s Chinatown, in 1989, he didn’t have a mission, she said. Cooking was simply what he knew how to do. He still does inventory with pen and paper. At the beginning of 2020, sales plummeted because anti-Chinese sentiment from the coronavirus slowed traffic to Chinatown. The restaurant did takeout through March and April, and reopened for dine-in service in May, as soon as Texas allowed it. There was no other way, Ms. Pham said. There were bills to pay.

At Monkey 68 in Roswell, Ga., which reopened to the public at 50 percent capacity in mid-May, Tay Wunn, the general manager, is focused on how to follow safety guidelines while still making money with fewer customers. Mr. Wunn doesn’t feel ready to ponder structural changes when the restaurant is making half what it did before the pandemic. He reopened because “we needed the revenue,” he said, and because so many of the employees did not receive unemployment benefits and wanted to get back to work.

Building a labor-centered model for restaurants may feel quixotic, an idea that won’t work at scale. But because most restaurants are small-scale operations, the solutions don’t need to be all-encompassing. There are many ways, big and small, that a restaurant can value labor. They can do it by eliminating tipping or switching to a cooperative model, but a new model can also mean cutting down on food waste and adding the savings to employees’ paychecks or lobbying for government policies that support workers’ and immigrants’ rights. For Ms. Thompson, of the Four Way in Memphis, it means helping her employees pay their bills while she researches health benefits packages for them.

Every restaurant should be able to find a model narrowly tailored to its workers and community, so long as there is also a broader public safety net. For an industrywide shift to take place, some government assistance will be essential. In the United States, federal assistance came via the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the emergency Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in late March. But the first round of the P.P.P. allocated only 9 percent of its loans to the hospitality sector, and most of it went to chains with far greater resources than independent restaurants.

In the absence of bipartisan support for more wide-reaching federal measures, especially universal health care, states and municipalities will have to step in to fill the vacuum of national leadership, as they have throughout the pandemic, to create a safety net for restaurants and workers. “The great thing about our federal system is that each state can be a laboratory to experiment with policies,” said David Henkes, a senior principal at Technomic. A tax credit for providing health insurance may work well in one state, and a stronger policy on rent relief in another. Both are policies that ease the financial and operational burden on restaurants, allowing them to invest in their workers. Because the restaurant industry touches so many parts of the economy, government assistance will help not just restaurants, but also the broader ecosystem of farms and other suppliers they work with.

With no federal reopening regulations and no official customer guidance, restaurants, workers and diners are left to make ethical calculations of their own. Close forever or reopen under unsafe conditions? Take a job in harm’s way or forfeit a paycheck? Support a local restaurant or risk a server’s health for a plate of enchiladas?

These questions all come down to labor, and the willingness of government, restaurant owners and customers to value it. More important than any specific policy is an acknowledgment that the restaurant system that we have all bought into for so long is broken. A system built to serve the privileged by hurting the most vulnerable is not a system worth having. Not in a pandemic, and not ever.

Priya Krishna (@priyakrishna) is a journalist and the author of the cookbook “Indian-ish.”