WASHINGTON — The National Restaurant Association (NRA) continues to push Congress for additional financial support for restaurants that are greatly suffering due to the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The association recently sent a letter to Congressional leadership, laying out their concerns for the industry’s future.

“What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type – franchise, chain, and independent – are in an economic free fall,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for public affairs for the NRA, in the letter. “And for every month that passes without a solution from Congress, thousands more restaurants will close their doors for good.”

In a recent survey of 6,000 restaurant operators and 250 supply chain businesses, the NRA found that 87% of full-service restaurants have dropped an average of 36% of their sales revenue. Over the next three months, 83% of full-service operators expect sales to drop even more.

“In short, the restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” Kennedy said in the letter. “We appreciate the efforts of a group of moderate members of the House and Senate to advance a true compromise between the competing proposals from Democratic and Republican leaders. If this moderate plan represents a ‘down payment’ for a larger relief package in early 2021, it will provide restaurants with immediate relief to hold on through the most dangerous point in our business year.”

Costs continue to remain high even with the drop in revenue. The association said 59% of restaurants surveyed saw total labor costs (as a percentage of sales) are now higher than before the pandemic.

During the winter, the NRA survey said that 58% of restaurant operations expect more furloughs and layoffs. 

The group also stated that 110,000 restaurants, 17% of businesses, have closed permanently or for a long period of time.  

“The vast majority of permanently closed restaurants were well-established businesses, and fixtures in their communities,” NRA said in its survey. “On average these restaurants had been in business for 16 years, and 16% had been open for at least 30 years.”

When former restaurant owners were asked if they were likely to stay in the industry, only 48% said they would return.