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Foodservice industry lobbies US lawmakers for COVID-19 aid

Restaurants have been hard-hit by the pandemic and the affect has trickled down to the poultry industry.

Advocates in the foodservice industry discussed the challenges facing restaurants since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with U.S. lawmakers on Friday. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and members of Congress attended the hearing.

“According to a recent National Restaurant Association survey, one in six restaurants are currently closed. Forty percent of those still open say they are likely to close within six months without additional federal relief. The restaurant industry is on track to lose $240 billion this year,” said Melvin Rodrigue, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Restaurant Association.

Rodrigue advocated for a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help business keep their workforce employed during the crisis, a refundable tax credit to help restaurants invest in safety equipment and the Employee Retention Tax Credit.

Several restaurants specializing in chicken qualified for the first round of PPP funding, including the Chicken Shack in Royal Oak, Michigan, the Chicken and Rice Guys in Everett, Massachusetts and Chicken Charlies in San Diego, California.

Buddy Dyer, the Mayor of Orlando, Florida, Sandra Berenstein, the Owner and Proprietor of the Girl and the Fig, Christine Hà, Owner and Chef of the Blind Goat, Mario Sandoval, a culinary worker from Las Vegas, Nevada and Saru Jayaraman, the President of One Fair Wage also shared their experiences since the beginning of the pandemic during the hearing.

COVID-19 impact

Worldwide, the foodservice industry was impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, many restaurants closed dining rooms and pivoted to takeout and delivery only in order to comply with social distancing and quarantine measures. Today, some states, including recently announced Florida, allow indoor dining with no restrictions, but most still limit seating to 50-75% capacity.

Plummeting foodservice demand had a major effect on the poultry industry as foodservice processors shifted to retail cuts. Multiple poultry producers, including Sanderson Farms, announced plans to ramp up retail processing. Tyson Foods made its “most-significant shift” ever to produce the cuts of chicken, beef and pork preferred by supermarket shoppers rather than restaurants.

“Restaurants – and other places where we gather, like theaters, arenas, and concert halls – are uniquely vulnerable to the current public health crisis,” Congressman Mike Thompson (D-California), Chair of the Ways and Means Committee said. “Eighty-five percent of independent restaurants may go under before the end of the year if more federal relief doesn’t come.”

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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Elizabeth Doughman is the Managing Editor of Poultry Future. To contact Doughman, email [email protected]

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