Restaurant Industry Lobbyists Meet With President Trump, Earn Congressional $120B Proposal

Two of the main restaurant lobbies achieved a major milestone this week in Washington DC, earning a $120 billion funding proposal on May 20, the day after meeting in-person with President Donald Trump on May 19. The major groups representing the country’s 500,000 restaurants are the National Restaurant Association, founded one century ago; and the Independent Restaurant Coalition, founded three months ago.

Notwithstanding their 100-year age gap, these two star-studded groups have earned over 50,000 combined signatures on their Congressional letters here and here. This week, Independent Restaurant Coalition achieved a major milestone toward one of their goals, “to establish the Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund of at least $120 billion.” On Wednesday, Representative Earl Blumenauer announced The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020, calling for a $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant program.

“It’s only been 7 weeks and our coalition has a seat at the table because of our collective work to help #SaveRestaurants. We won’t stop fighting,” the coalition posted to Instagram. “We thank the Congressman for his leadership, and for supporting our industry and the millions we employ,” they posted to Twitter.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition’s membership includes a who’s who of celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio, José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Ashley Christenson, Marcus Samuelsson, Will Guidara, Andrew Carmellini and Nick Kokonas. The coalition originally called for a $100 billion restaurant grant, and has increased that amount per Congressman Blumenauer’s $120 billion request this week.

Their congressional achievement comes after Tuesday’s meeting at the White House, organized by the larger lobby, the National Restaurant Association, whose CEO Marvin Irby and Board Chair Melvin Rodrigue attended the meeting in-person. Other attendees at the meeting included the U.S. Treasury Secretary, National Economic Council Director, Restaurant Brands International’s CEO, and Panera Bread’s CEO, and several others.

The National Restaurant Association was also successful last week in convincing Congressmen Dean Phillips and Chip Roy to introduce a “Flexibility Act” to modify the original Paycheck Protection Program rules, which would extend the period during which restaurants can use their forgivable loan funds, as well as easing restrictions on non-payroll expenses such as rent.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she would be willing to allow voting on the Flexibility Act next week. The Act enjoys bipartisan support in the House and Senate as a “quick fix to the Small Business Association program that has drawn widespread criticism from restaurateurs whose PPP money would convert to a two-year loan if they don’t follow the terms of the program,” according to reporters from the Washington Post.

The National Restaurant Association continues lobbying for an even larger fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an amount double to that achieved this week with the above RESTAURANTS Act of 2020. The Association is still soliciting co-signers for its $240 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund.

Although very small in size, 23 restaurant executives compose one notably powerful lobby on Capitol Hill not mentioned above: the so-called Food & Beverage Great American Economic Revival Industry Group (GAERIG). President Trump formed this group on April 14 to combat the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. GAERIG members advise the White House directly on post-COVID-19 reopening practices.

Photo by Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

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