Restaurants urging Congress to replenish billions in Restaurant Revitalization Fund

In a plea to Congressional leaders, restaurants across the country are asking lawmakers to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) amidst an ongoing Omicron surge. 

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The RRF is a more than $28-billion federal grant, passed during the COVID-19 pandemic to help struggling restaurants, stay afloat. And the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) says more than 100,000 jobs are at stake if the RRF is not replenished. 

"You might be busy on a Friday night but if you’re not open on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, it just doesn’t add up," said Tracy Vaught, President of the H-Town Restaurant Group. 

Vaught and her husband, Hugo Ortega, own several Houston staples including Hugo's, Backstreet Café, Caracol, Urbe and Xochi. Currently, Vaught says all their restaurants could increase staffing by up to 35% or more. But Hugo’s was denied federal aid. 


In fact, according to new data, nearly 46% of restaurant operators that applied for an RRF grant did not receive funding.

"Every day we have to adjust ourselves to some other inconvenience, you know. Prices are up, scarcity of product; you got to change your menu," Vaught said. 

Additionally, with only a fraction of people currently working in offices, downtown is no longer considered a prime location. 

"We have a 30% vacancy rate right now at offices and of the 70% that are occupied, they only have 30% of the people in them," Vaught said. 

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According to data from a National Restaurant Association survey, 88% of restaurants saw reduced demand for indoor dining because of the Omicron variant. 

Vaught says the latest burden from the pandemic on her restaurants are staffing shortages and inflated costs of food and labor. 

"For many reasons, the labor pool is smaller, right now. So, restaurants are competing for the same people and therefore the wage is going up and that’s great for employees, but it’s just one more thing on each restaurant that is causing some hardship," Vaught said. 


If fully funded, the National Restaurant Association estimates that the RRF could save an additional 1.6 million restaurant jobs including more than 100,000 in Texas currently at risk.

If you’d like to show restaurants your support, click here to tell Congress to replenish the RRF.