Fare Share: Restaurants depend on you for sustenance

John Barker
Guest columnist

“Where do you want to go out to eat?”

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, this question was asked without a second thought on any night of the week, and early in 2020, we were at the pinnacle of the golden age of restaurants.

Now the restaurant, food-service and hospitality industry looks like an emaciated shadow of what it was just a few months ago.

John Barker

The irony of it all is that the Ohio Restaurant Association reached its 100-year mark this year as an organization supporting the industry throughout the decades since 1920. Now the ORA is holding virtual celebrations with educational webinars and raising money though its Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund during a global pandemic.

This is occurring while many owners and operators throughout the state struggle to break even financially, their employees are losing their jobs and thousands of establishments likely will have to shut down in the next nine months, according to our ORA impact poll.

At the ORA, we are working with local, state and federal officials to take action and provide support for legislation and orders that will help Ohio’s restaurant, food-service and hospitality industry survive. This includes pressing Congress to authorize an additional round of Paycheck Protection Program funding, ensure restaurants can deduct business expenses paid with PPP loans, provide a tax credit for investments that enhance the safety of customers and employees and expand the employee-retention tax credit, among many other initiatives. Read the full Blueprint for Restaurant Revival at restaurantsact.com.

At the state level, we are working with health officials and Gov. Mike DeWine’s Restaurant Advisory Group to create the "We Are Ohio's Restaurants campaign" and the Ohio Restaurant Promise to provide guidance and clarity on COVID-19 guidelines, safe sanitization practices, social distancing and more. For example, we have asked Gov. DeWine to move the 10 p.m. cutoff on alcohol sales to midnight.

The Ohio Restaurant Association created a video for the "We Are Ohio's Restaurants" campaign that shows what restaurant owners and operators from across the state have been doing to help keep customers safe. It's available on the ORA's YouTube channel.

With breaking news creating devastating headlines for restaurants nearly every day and colder winter weather on its way, our industry – and your favorite restaurants – might not survive to see 2021.

So where do we go from here?

Where will you go out to eat?

It’s up to you.

You are the reason restaurants exist. You are reason they love to do what they do: serve delicious food in their beloved communities with generous hospitality.

Order from your favorite spots, and order often. Eating in or takeout both are helpful for the 585,000 owners, operators and employees who make their living in the state’s second largest industry. These folks are your hardworking neighbors, friends and family.

In fact, they see you as their family. Watch our video on the OhioRestaurantAssociation YouTube channel to see some of your favorite local establishments share that message with you.

They are doing everything they can to feed their communities, and we’re doing everything we can to keep them going – hopefully, for the next 100 years.

John Barker is president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.