While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt across the board, the retail and food service sector has been hit particularly hard from farm-level to consumer and everything in between. The National Restaurant Association, in March, was “anticipating sales to decline by $225 billion during the next three months, which will prompt the loss of between five and seven million jobs”. This has been felt locally, in King County, across over 5,000 food establishments with over 100,000 employees. In a city where the vibrancy and culture of diverse communities are expressed so strongly through food, the impacts go well beyond just the financial.
There will be significant long-term impacts and widespread changes in how the sector operates. We are already seeing businesses adapt their business models in new and creative ways. Some businesses have shut down, some have pivoted, and some are still figuring out how to get by. All of this is happening with the uncertainty of how next month, next week, or even tomorrow will look. At Business Impact NW, we are continually monitoring and compiling info on the resources that small business owners need to weather the storm and helping them navigate COVID-19 resources wherever they fall on the spectrum. Through the Food Business Resource Center (FBRC), we are working additionally to compile and bring together specific resources and connections that farm and food businesses need.
We have quickly learned, in working with business clients and coordinating with other organizations, that there isn’t one magic solution for getting through this crisis. It is a collective challenge we are facing to get to the new normal with solutions that will come in many forms along the way. For restaurants, many of those solutions are happening now and many more will continue to crop up:
- For Seattle restaurants and caterers still open for business, the City of Seattle created an interactive #SupportSeattleSmallBiz GIS map to connect customers to restaurants that are open for takeout and/or delivery. Business owners can email email@example.com to be added to that map.
- The Intentionalist, an online platform that supports small businesses and encourages consumers to #SpendLikeItMatters, has created a Takeout and Delivery Directory that also includes restaurants outside of Seattle. Business owners can create a listing through a website form on the directory page.
- For restaurants in the Chinatown-International District, an area that has seen significant revenue losses that started very early on from the first COVID-19 cases, three organizations (SCIDpda, Chinatown-International District BIA, Friends of Little Saigon) came together to create a CID Restaurants and other Small Businesses Relief Fund, seeded by Vulcan, to distribute grants to businesses in that community.
- For King County restaurant employees who have lost jobs or experienced significant reduction in work hours, The Schultz Family Foundation along with numerous partners, created The Plate Fund to provide $500 emergency relief grants to these individuals.
- Coalitions like Seattle Restaurants United and Facebook groups like Support the ID – Community United have formed for advocacy and connections.
At Business Impact NW, our team is here to guide you through the resources, connections, business changes, and anything else your business needs in order to preserve the vibrant communities we serve as we emerge from this pandemic. We don’t have all the answers, but we will work together with you to find them.