The last couple of years have been our most difficult as a small business, as they have been for so many all over the US. Like countless foodservice businesses nationwide - we squeaked through 2020 and 2021 by drastically downsizing and finding a way to pivot our operations.
Our Brooklyn cafe closed because our landlord would not negotiate early in the pandemic. Catering and wholesale evaporated, then came back briefly this year before all but disappearing again with the rise of Omicron. With no catering, our food truck became an expense we couldn't carry.
Our pivot to an e-commerce model, in relative terms, has been a roaring success - but it simply hasn't been enough.
The increased e-commerce sales and the PPP and EIDL loans (for which we're forever thankful) got us this far. And then the Restaurant Revitalisation Fund gave us - and many others - an amazing amount of hope. But those hopes are being dashed.
Back in May of 2021, as part of the American Rescue Act, we were told that we qualified for the Restaurant Revitalisation Fund (RRF). This was meant to be a full bail-out of the foodservice industry.
We qualified and applied. But we were among the 2/3rds of the applicants (over 177,000 small, food businesses) to miss out when the fund was quickly depleted due to inconceivably bad management.
Congress has been discussing replenishment of the RRF for the last 8 months but that notion has been all but lost amongst the political "horse-trading" - despite the situation deteriorating further with the rise of Omicron. Many businesses, like us, have taken on more debt - hoping for the promised RRF replenishment.
By funding 1/3rd of RRF applicants, the bailout saved these businesses - and made it possible for them to more easily cope with ingredient price increases, to pay back-rent etc AND to pay their staff a more competitive wage. Meanwhile, those of us that missed out watched in disbelief. Surely, Congress wouldn't simply let the rest of us die on vine?.... but that's exactly what has happened. Surveys show over 80% of those that missed out on the RRF will fail in the coming months. That includes us, unfortunately.
There's an increasing amount of press on this subject - but any effect the coverage might have is likely to come too late for most. Here's a good New York Times article from a few weeks ago that summarizes the mess that was the Restaurant Revitalisation Fund. And this deeper dive is great coverage from Mother Jones.
There is still a small chance of replenishment, so if you're moved to do something to help us and other foodservice businesses - the heart and soul of so many communities across the country - take a look at what you can do.
In the meantime, buy our pies - while you still can!