A message from Gruppo Italiano

We’d like to share a message from Gianfranco Sorrentino, President of Gruppo Italiano, the Association of Italian Restaurateurs, Importers and Distributors SOCIALE is part of.

Businesses Impacted Due to Novel Corona virus

Dear GI Members,

We are reaching out to our community of member Restaurateurs, Importers, Distributers and Producers because of the uncertain of the times we find ourselves in with the corona virus now in its inevitable spread throughout the US. With the impact of the virus, and the unrelenting news having profoundly affected our industries, GRUPPO ITALIANO feels we need more than ever to develop a sense of “team” in order to support one another to help us through these trying days.

Of course, our thoughts are with all those individuals impacted by this virus. We hope they will recover as quickly as possible whether they require hospitalization, or not (fortunately, it is reported that 80% of those contracting the virus need no hospitalization). It is our profound hope that our lives, and our businesses, all will return to normalcy soon.

We are very closely watching the impact on the Hospitality Industry as none of our businesses are untouched. We all feel the effects of this outbreak. Already there is concern about hygiene due to the threat of food-born illnesses. Therefore, we need to think about new measures of cleanliness, and how to implement our procedures.

First, it is imperative that we remind ourselves of prudent and practical measures that must be taken immediately. Foremost among these, we need to insure and keep all our restaurants safe for our employees, and our dining guests. Should we notice any of our employees with some symptom(s) of a cold or who are coughing, we must invite (insist) that they see a doctor, and stay at home.

We should also be conscious of openly displaying to our customers our dedication to cleanliness. Use hand sanitizers, make them available to guests, make certain each employee takes proper care in handing our foods in the kitchen, and when delivery dishes to the table.

At Gruppo Italiano, our first action has been to contact Open Table and the National Restaurant Association in order to get their official and informed opinions on how to proceed. Our wish is to explore and coordinate ways to work together. As per Open table, they see an enormous impact in reservations, especially in the high tourist destinations such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlantic City, and of course, New York City. Hotel, restaurants and catering companies are feeling the biggest impact, followed closely by sharp declines with mounting cancellations of scheduled conferences and events, and corporate lunches and dinners.

Second, we must consider how to effectively promote all our local restaurants, and thus maintain our valuable patron support. 

We noticed that many business offices have turned to ordering the delivery of food because of the fear of sitting and eating in crowded restaurants. We would be smart to acknowledge this trend as a continued—-and needed—-revenue stream. Therefore, we encourage our restaurant members to take action to boost delivery methods, recreate a delivery menu, and even promote these with offices in the vicinity of your restaurants.

Third, we can also run our daily specials or seasonal promotions on Open Table. Of course we will need to put a hold on big purchases. This is the time to revise our wine and liquor inventory, and in doing so offer these, as we see the need, by the glass (or as specials wines of the day).

Fourth, should sales continue to slide—as they may well do with present conditions- and the government demands all restaurants to shut down, then restaurants can get money from insurance due to “business interruption”. 
The Mayor announced this past weekend that there will be assistance to small businesses to help them adapt to changing customer behavior. Businesses may qualify for low-interest loans and employee retention grants.
• Businesses with fewer than 100 employees, seeing a decrease in sales up to 25% or more will be eligible for zero interest loans up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit.
• The City is also offering eligible small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees.

Landlords still want their rightful rent, so restaurants should be proactive in explaining their situations and negotiating temporary rent levels until the crisis has abated.

Fifth, and another important factor that is very important, is to keep our staffs working. Be transparent with your employees about the situation we all face, and negotiate with them in order to maintain their employment. Certainly, they will make less money, but on the other hand, we can insure they stay working. We all must make sacrifices until the crisis of this outbreak ends.

Rest assured that GRUPPO ITALIANO will do all it can to pass along helpful information that will hopefully allow you to weather this vast challenge to our industry. We must continue to be helpful to one another, in ways that we can in order to keep our industry healthy when our communities are fearful and forced to feel untrusting of our industry. The good news will be once the crisis has passed, the vibrancy of our businesses will return. Let’s insure we are properly prepare ourselves and are ready for when that time comes.

Sincerely yours,
Gianfranco Sorrentino, 

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