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Restaurant industry hit hard by omicron variant, asking for government help


WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The National Restaurant Association today released new survey data highlighting the devastating impact the omicron variant has had so far, and the positive impact the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) had on the industry.

In a letter to Congress, the Association highlighted that the survey shows that the first round of RRF funding saved more than 900,000 jobs and helped 96% of recipients of a grant stay in business.

In addition, the survey found:

  • Nearly 50% of restaurant operators that did not receive RRF grants feel it’s unlikely that they will stay in business beyond the pandemic without a grant.
  • 94% of restaurant operators that applied for an RRF grant, but did not receive funding, said a future grant would enable them to retain or hire back employees.

“This highlights how impactful RRF replenishment would be. Our own estimates indicate that replenishing the RRF would save an additional 1.6 million restaurant jobs,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association.

“The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amidst continued economic uncertainty. The decisions you make in the coming weeks will be critical toward the future of the restaurants that are so proud to serve your communities.”

The restaurant industry was hit hard by the latest surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.

Forced to adapt to deteriorating consumer confidence, restaurants reduced hours/days of operation, cut seating capacity, and shutdown, pivoting to off-premises dining with the end result being lower sales volumes in 2021 than in 2019.

According to the survey, we know:

  • 88% of restaurants experienced a decline in customer demand for indoor on-premises dining in because of the omicron variant.
  • 76% of operators report that business conditions are worse now than three months ago.
  • 74% say their restaurant is less profitable now than it was before the pandemic.

“The new data show that restaurant recovery is paralyzed and nowhere near complete. The restaurant industry is at an inflection point, and we need your leadership now more than ever. Congress must act now, to replenish the RRF in the upcoming legislative package to fund the government,” said Kennedy in the letter.

On, Monday, Jan. 24, 2021, at noon ET, the Association will be joined by two small business restaurant operators at a press conference to discuss how replenishing the RRF would impact their businesses and their employees.

Kennedy will also be joined by Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research for the Association to provide the latest overview of the state of the restaurant industry. For more information about the press conference email

Read the full letter to Congress here.

The National Restaurant Association Research Group conducted the COVID-19 Restaurant Impact Survey of 4,200 restaurant operators Jan. 16-18, 2022. Read the report of key findings here.

About the National Restaurant Association
Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.6 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We sponsor the industry’s largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart). For more information, visit and find us on Twitter@WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.