With around 90% of Americans under a stay-at-home order, operators continue to adjust to the “new normal.” Staying in business long enough for this crisis to subside often involves some combination of scaling back costs, shifting exclusively to off-premise sales and seeking relief from federal, state and local policymakers. In the middle of this torrent, workers’ and customers’ expectations of brands also continue to evolve and some labor groups are taking advantage of the situation to advance their interest.
Federal, State and Local Tax Credits and Loans
Federal, state and local policymakers have all taken steps to assist struggling companies and the hospitality sector is receiving particular attention with a number of programs specifically designed for it. Align has compiled a resource guide of existing federal and state programs. Available here.
In addition to federal and state programs, many cities and counties are also implementing tax relief and deferral programs, and some local utilities and government-owned institutions (airports, travel plazas, etc.) are deferring payment of utilities and rent. Operators need to check locally to ensure they’re taking advantage of all relief programs.
Note: Federal, state and local programs are designed to operate side-by-side with one another, not overlap. “Double-dipping” is likely prohibited and operators need to be mindful that utilizing one program may prohibit them from accessing another.
Worker / Customer Safety
Many brands early in the crisis responded by adjusting operations to protect workers and consumers. Examples include strengthening wipe down and sanitation procedures and voluntarily closing down dining areas, among other measures. Expectations have continued (and will continue) to evolve. Retailers are taking additional steps to install sneeze guards at checkout lines; provide workers with hand sanitizer, gloves and masks; conduct temperature checks before workers begin their shifts, and; increase hazard pay and benefits for workers that continue to come to work. For companies that continue to operate, expect increased scrutiny and growing expectations that the company is taking necessary steps to protect workers and customers.
Labor groups in all sectors have begun organizing workers around safety issues with some in the healthcare sector going as far as making cable TV ad buys. Major retailers, restaurants and on-demand delivery platforms have experienced strikes and sick-outs as worker advocate groups attempt to earn concessions from employers.
A number of localities and states are contracting with hotels, restaurants and retailers to provide frontline workers (healthcare workers, first responders, etc.) with food and lodging. These partnerships provide an opportunity for brands to assist their communities during this crisis and keep operating. Every operator should work with their respective trade associations, municipalities and state leaders to forge impactful partnerships.