Fears of COVID-19 community spread push Texas Mayors to make difficult decisions
Yesterday’s decisions in Dallas and Harris counties to close restaurant dining rooms amid an already significant slowdown in consumer traffic will account for a projected loss of up to 500,000 jobs in the Texas restaurant industry.
The Texas restaurant industry employs more than 1.4 million workers, with an estimated 250,000 employees in Dallas County and 300,000 employees in Harris County.
Small restaurants operate with razor thin margins (1-2%), leaving them highly susceptible to minor impact, let alone catastrophic impact such as the COVID-19 crisis. The Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) projects 25-30% of independent restaurants will close if the reduction in patrons continues. With more than 50,000 restaurants in Texas, this will change the culinary scene and business environment in every community across the state, drive significant unemployment, and create a massive financial deficit for cities and towns that rely on the tax revenue of these establishments.
Restaurant owners also have great concern for their counterparts in other food supply chain industries, in which the TRA estimates that another 500,000 or more jobs could be lost, including in farms, trucking, manufacturing, suppliers, and distributors.
TRA fully supports slowing the spread of this virus and has been in constant communication with health departments across the state, as well as proactively sharing guidance with elected officials. Texas restaurateurs want to lead during this crisis, supporting their communities and government officials. Governor Greg Abbott remains incredibly supportive of the industry, committed to helping restaurants navigate these challenging times.
TRA remains deeply concerned about food supply, with more than 50% of Texans’ daily food intake provided by restaurants. Reducing restaurants’ capacity significantly, with already empty grocery store shelves, could cause public panic. Additionally, many Texas citizens do not have the financial means to stockpile groceries.
TRA is working incredibly hard to help members without drive-thru, delivery, and curbside pick-up to transform their business models immediately, but such methods of operation yield a fraction of their normal business income. There is and will be a learning curve for many businesses; the result could mean thousands of restaurants unable to survive this crisis.
For the Texas restaurant industry to survive, these businesses and their employees need emergency federal and state support in the form of grants, emergency unemployment benefits, and tax credits. They need access to funds immediately, tax deferrals, emergency low-interest loans, eviction protection, and rent mitigation. The federal, state and local governments must step-in immediately. Restaurants are the heart of every community and together, we must not fail Texas restaurants, we must ensure they survive.