Has the United States demonized the restaurant industry as a vector of the pandemic? Coronavirus (COVID-19

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As a wave of COVID-19 grips the country, restaurant owners tire of pointing fingers at their businesses as a major factor in the increase in cases. Instead, they say Americans should focus on how to save the industry, which is a major economic engine for the country.

Like a COVID-19 outbreak takes hold of the United States, restaurant chefs deploy increasing safety precautions, while some smaller chains and mom-and-pop stores find themselves closer than ever to the turning point.

Even the so-called “big guys” like McDonald’s are on high alert as many states begin to increase restaurant restrictions.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve all seen multiple ‘starts and stops’ with the virus – both in US states and around the world,” McDonald’s CFO Kevin Ozan said this week. to investors during a second quarter earnings call. “And while we expect this to be the norm until a vaccine is widely adopted, we believe our Accelerate Arches strategic plan will yield solid results over the next two years.”

And like almost every restaurant still in operation, McDonald’s has repeatedly “pivoted” to meet the challenges of the pandemic, including updating around 50 food-to-safety processes, creating a 59-page guide to the news. standards, including welfare controls and protective barriers. as distributing more than 100 million masks to date, according to an email from the company.

While these brands are adjusting like they never have before, there is stress and it is opening cracks of frustration in the industry, especially as individual states begin to restrict restaurant operations again like the one of the first orders of COVID control activity.

In fact, as winter approaches, many brands are planning to shut down for the winter and lay off their teams, with around 100,000 restaurants expected to close either temporarily or permanently by the end of the year, according to the company. The hill.

I think there has been an unfair amount of demonization of the restaurant industry, compared to the amount of stimulus provided to the industry. “

-Prakash Karamchandani

Added to this is the fact that 2.1 million restaurant jobs have been lost, according to the latest monthly United States Employment Report, as well as the fact that closed restaurants lead to job losses in other industries.

Obviously, that’s everyone’s problem, but according to an Ohio restaurateur who has been active in industry communications, the restaurant industry is still hit hard by trade restrictions and restrictions. fallout from the pandemic, although the industry receives little sector-specific support.

“I think restaurants and bars are being unfairly targeted to be the primary source of transmission,” Prakash Karamchandani said Thursday in an interview with his Toledo, Ohio-based Libra Pan-Asian Grille chain. “It doesn’t mean that they (restaurants) aren’t a source of its spread, but it depends heavily on the restrictions of individual operators.… There are some reckless operators, but I don’t think it deserves the restaurant and bars are the first thing to report because that’s not what the data says. “

In fact, one of these data published this week in the journal Nature, made exactly that kind of finger pointing, according to the National Restaurant Association. The study looked at scientific modeling by a group of researchers from Stanford and Northwestern Universities to show how COVID-19 is spreading in 10 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

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“Our model predicts that a small minority of ‘super-spreader’ POIs (points of interest) account for a large majority of infections and that restricting maximum occupancy at each POI is more effective than uniformly reducing mobility”, have the researchers said in the study. report. “Our model also correctly predicts higher infection rates among disadvantaged racial and socio-economic groups solely from differences in mobility: we find that disadvantaged groups have not been able to reduce mobility as sharply, and that the POIs they visit are more congested and therefore at higher risk.By capturing who is infected in which locations, our model supports detailed analyzes that can inform more effective and fair policy responses to COVID-19.

On Thursday, the NRA released a statement questioning the study’s results, mainly because it said the predictive modeling used to draw conclusions was insufficient when applied to the real world. The organization claimed it was full of errors on things like whether restaurants were using security measures, the size of the sample studied, and the report only showing “predicted” transmission rates. based only on modeling, not real-world contact tracing. .

“Restaurants around the world are fighting for their survival. Let’s do some common sense relief for an industry that employs millions and keeps America nourished.”

– Jamie Richardson

The NRA drew attention to the researchers’ own words in the report, admitting that “the mobility dataset we use has limitations” and “does not include all of the real-world features relating to mobility. disease transmission “.

“We would not dispute the researchers’ findings that disadvantaged people had higher mobility during the research period and therefore may have a higher risk of contracting SARS CoV-2,” the NRA said in a statement. . “However, the lack of contact tracing and public health data determining who among the groups actually contracted the virus and without a higher level of specificity of where they contracted it, using a modeling with anonymized location data pulled from mobile devices is not an acceptable way to determine that restaurants were a likely cause of virus transmission. ”

Are you putting too much pressure on the restaurant industry?

Claims by Karamchandani and the NRA suggest that attacking restaurants too harshly only makes matters worse by shutting down all the societal and economic benefits they offer. In fact, Karamchandani said these same benefits are one of the reasons the restaurant industry in general deserves some type of industry-specific relief or boost on a national scale.

“I think all industries need some form of stimulation… but I think there has been an unfair amount of demonization of the restaurant industry, compared to the amount of stimulation provided to the industry. “, did he declare.

“There has to be a second round of P3s and some type of extended unemployment benefit… and maybe even find a way to provide a cap on that. But don’t penalize restaurants. … Where is the specific help for the restaurant? … If there were additional stimuli, I think you would see that would increase the options. “

In Columbus, Ohio, QSR, White Castle, Vice President Jamie Richardson urges lawmakers to help restaurants.

White Castle continues to focus on the safety of team members and guests, as we have done throughout the pandemic, ”he said. “We put the emphasis on our mobile app – it’s a safe and easy way to order. And based on feedback from our General Managers and team members, we have chosen to keep our dining rooms closed for dinner and have remained focused on serving our customers with take out delivery options, at the end of the day. steering wheel and by third parties.

“We want this to end – but we know we all need to be vigilant as we work towards that day.… Our elected leaders need to do what restaurants across the country do every day – meet the challenges to bring solutions to those we serve. The pandemic is real. The pandemic will not go away on its own. And restaurants around the world are fighting for their survival. Let’s do common sense relief for an industry that employs millions of people. people and feeds America. “


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