PODCAST: Restaurants rising, but challenges remain

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

With warmer weather and vaccinations increasing, one restaurant industry pro said restaurants are hopeful they will have a better 2021, but challenges remain. 

“Because the losses were so great, it's going to be challenging for a lot of people,” said Kristin Metzger, CPA, senior manager at William Vaughan Company. “But I think that you're going to be able to see more people with the relief survive than we would have seen without some of the relief offered through government grants and credits.” 

Metzger, the restaurant Practice Leader at William Vaughan, joined the State of Business podcast to discuss what opportunities and difficulties remain for the restaurant industry for the remainder of the year. 

She said restaurant operators are telling her they are starting to see their monthly sales increase. The warmer spring weather has allowed restaurants in Ohio to open patio seating, helping them to increase capacity observing social distancing measures. 

“I think the vaccine availability is also helping bring people to the restaurants because for a long time a lot of people were very uncomfortable dining out,” she said. “And you might not have wanted to gather with people outside of your immediate household or that bubble.” 

Metzger said she did have clients who had to close locations or reduce working hours within the past year because of the pandemic. Many pivoted to the carryout model, which was common before the pandemic, but wildly popular with diners and vital for business over the past 14 months. 

The first and second iterations of the Paycheck Protection Program – along with the employee retention credit – have helped restaurants, but now Metzger said the focus is on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. 

“It’s grants that operators are able to apply for where you take 2019 and 2020 and compare gross receipts,” Metzger said. “And if you've had a reduction, you're eligible for a grant.” 

How much the restaurants could receive depends on the revenue lost because of the pandemic and whether it received a PPP loan. 

You can use those grant funds until March of 2023, with eligible expenses covering different areas such as food, inventory, beverages and rent. The portal opened for registration April 30 with applications available beginning May 3. 

“A lot of things you might read say this just a little part of what the industry is going to need to recover,” she said. “But for many operators, this is a lifeline, because this industry has just been incredibly hard hit throughout this past year and a half.”