New training program available for hospitality jobs

The York County Industrial Development Authority, staffed by the York County Economic Alliance, is launching the John A. Lambert Hospitality Training Program.

The initiative, in partnership with Crispus Attucks, York College of Pennsylvania and GF Hotels & Resorts, honors John A. Lambert, one of the Yorktowne Hotel’s most recognized and tenured employees.

Offered at no cost, the training program will prepare individuals for a career in the hospitality industry. Participants who attend and complete the classes and earn a passing grade on the corresponding exam will receive a certificate from the nationally recognized American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute, a release said.

The evening and weekend classes – to be held Sept. 12 through Sept. 28 – will be taught by industry professionals and held in the Crispus Attucks computer lab at 605 S. Duke St., York. Classes in Spanish are available upon request.

Training topics include Guest Service Gold: Golden Opportunities; Front Desk Representative; Guest Room Attendant; Restaurant Server; Maintenance Employee; and Kitchen Cook.

The John A. Lehman Hospitality Training Program is financially supported by the Women’s Giving Circle and the Rotary Club of York.

Anyone interested in working for the Yorktowne Hotel as it prepares to reopen is also encouraged to attend the York Hiring Fair from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at PeoplesBank Park and Yorktowne Hiring Days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 19-21 at the York County Economic Alliance, 144 Roosevelt Ave., York.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Child care shortage hurts hospitality industry, survey says

Lack of access to child care threatens parents’ ability to work in the hospitality industry, according to survey data released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and Start Strong PA.

The survey questionnaire was distributed to hospitality industry employers and employees between March and May.

Among the data highlights:

· Nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that there is a shortage of affordable child care options for their employees.

· Over 80% of respondents said inadequate child care options impacts their ability to recruit qualified employees.

· Nearly 95% of employees said that child care-related concerns are contributing to the national workforce shortage.

“The hospitality industry is still struggling to fully rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic,” John Longstreet, Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association president and CEO, said in a release. “Staffing continues to be the No. 1 concern of operators across all sectors of our industry. Affordable, accessible child care would mean more team members could enter, stay and grow in our industry, boosting the economy along the way.”

Hospitality employees with children reported that child-care access was a barrier to work even before to the pandemic, citing cost and irregular hours. Now that barrier has only increased.

Nearly all employers and employees surveyed said that expanding access to affordable child care should be a high priority for their communities.

“There are currently more than 7,000 vacant child care positions across Pennsylvania … and more than 32,400 Pennsylvanian children on waitlists,” added Steve Doster, a principal partner in Start Strong PA, which supports affordable access to high-quality child care for Pennsylvania families.

“The economy depends on working families and working families depend on child care. Pennsylvania lawmakers are in a position to stabilize and strengthen the child care sector by investing in its employees.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance write

Lancaster businesses receive over $6 million in CHIRP funding

Sam Guo, owner of Silantra speaking with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Wolf joined the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce to highlight the grant funding provided to local restaurants through the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program. PHOTO PROVIDED

Lancaster County businesses received over $6 million through Pennsylvania’s $145 million COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP).

This week the state Department of Community and Economic Development announced that 316 Lancaster County businesses were awarded $6,045,000 million in CHIRP funding.

Applications opened in March to receive a grant through the program, which was approved by the legislature in February. Grants were awarded in increments of $5,000 and range from $10,000 to $40,000.

Businesses awarded the grant funding include hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, bars and campgrounds. Funding was distributed through each county’s Certified Economic Development Organization or Community Development Financial Institution and was based on population size.

“This program provided critical support to local small businesses this spring,” said Lisa Riggs, president of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County. “Being able to deploy these resources at a local level, given our knowledge of our small business landscape here in Lancaster, helped get these funds out the door and to businesses in need efficiently.”

Gov. Tom Wolf visited Lancaster city restaurant Silantra Asian Street Kitchen on Monday to celebrate the impact the grants will have on local businesses.

“I applaud our small business owners for their courage, tenacity, and creativity during the past year and a half, and my administration stands firm in our commitment to continuing to support them as they move forward in recovery,” said Wolf.

“We thank Governor Wolf and his team for their swift action in rolling out the vaccine, securing funding for local small businesses and putting our health and wellbeing as their first priority,” said Sam Guo, Silantra Asian Street Kitchen owner.

Wolf Administration outlines hospitality relief funding

Businesses in the hospitality industry can begin applying for grant funding next month after $145 million in federal dollars are being distributed to every county across the state.

Starting March 15, businesses can begin applying for grants through the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program.

The $145 million is part of Senate Bill 109, which Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law on Feb. 5. Grants will be awarded in $5,000 increments with a $50,000 maximum.

“The commonwealth’s hospitality industry is critical to the lives and livelihoods of so many Pennsylvanians, and it’s undeniable that it has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wolf said in a press release on Wednesday. “After months of calling for support for our hospitality establishments and their employees, I am pleased that the General Assembly has allocated millions of dollars in resources to protect and preserve this industry.”

The funds are currently being distributed to Certified Economic Development Organizations and Community Development Financial Institutions in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and are expected to be allocated by Feb. 28.

A hospitality business is eligible for the funding if they have less than 300 full-time equivalent employees, have a maximum tangible net worth less than $15 million, was in operation on Feb. 15 and remains in operation and the COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse economic impact.

Applicants can be prioritized for the grant if they have not received a loan or grant issued through the state or were closed by Wolf’s disaster declaration.

Businesses that can demonstrate a reduction in gross receipts of 50% or more from March 31 to Dec. 31, 2020 in comparison to the same time period in 2019 or were not open for the entirety of 2019 but can show a reduction in gross receipts for March 31 to Dec. 31 in comparison to Jan. 1 to April 1, can also be prioritized.

State hospitality association leader talks COVID-19 and the future of the state’s industry

John Longstreet
John Longstreet, president of the Pa. Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA)

This has been a tough year for the hospitality industry and few organizations are more aware of that than the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA). The Central Penn Business Journal recently sat down with John Longstreet, president of the PRLA, to talk about how its members are coping with the pandemic and what the organization is doing to help. 

Q: As cases of Coronavirus rise, how can restaurants and bars protect their patrons and employees?

A: The Governor has guidelines that are very helpful at the Pennsylvania Department of Health website. We refer to those and guidelines created by the CDC and the National Restaurant Association. The ServSafe program developed by the National Restaurant Association has a COVID addendum added to it, which extends to all 52 states. We say that because we have a unified partnership agreement in Puerto Rico and DC.

The most important aspects of safety are sanitation of surfaces, masking and social distancing. There were many protocols already put in place prior to COVID due to regulations put out by the FDA, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, so that the [hospitality industry] arguably has more safety regulations and protocols than any retail business

Q: How were business models tweaked to cope with this crisis?

A: The first thing our industry did was pivot to take out, delivery and curbside pickup. Historically, 50 percent of food purchased away from home is at restaurants. Some people don’t cook, others lack kitchen facilities, so restaurants became essential businesses. When restaurants reopened, they found ways to maximize their capacity, while making sure there was social distancing. For instance, Red Robin converted their waiting areas to seating areas to increase capacity and asked that customers wait in their cars.

Restaurant guidelines allowed for plexiglass barriers on the backs of booths and bar barriers, but bar seating is prohibited now, which makes it difficult to get to 50 percent capacity at some eateries

Q: Is ‘take out only’ going to carry restaurants through this difficult period?

A: No, it won’t. Restaurants operate on a 5, 7% margin. Before the pandemic, takeout was 10 percent, at best. Now some have gotten up to 30 percent, but that’s not enough to sustain businesses through the winter. They need two things: to open at a reasonable capacity and to receive a significant amount of financial help from the state—a tall order when we have 26,800 restaurants in Pennsylvania.

Q: Please talk about the July 15 mitigation order and some of the issues it created.

A: The mitigation order that went into effect on July 15 limited private parties to no more than 25 people. Most hotels ballrooms have the capacity to seat 2,000, so think about that.

In addition to that, restaurant capacity was reduced to 25 percent and bar seating was eliminated. This caused many restaurants to close to indoor dining. Imagine a 100-seat restaurant being cut down to 25 people and that includes the staff.

Q: What about self-certification—the optional program by which restaurants can assure employees and customers that they are adhering to COVID guidance?  

A: We heard time and again that some restaurateurs think that the Wolf administration is trying to entrap them. There’s no evidence of that, but because they feel targeted, they are understandably wary.

Q: Has the Wolf administration Worked with the PRLA?

A: Early on, we reached out to the Governor’s team and said we’d like to work with them in any way we could and it became a collaborative relationship, until a week prior to July 15, when we were on the phone with them again and at that time we talked about ideas to further stop the spread. Then, on July 15, we were scheduled to speak again and they said that they were thinking of doing some things which were different than those we had discussed a week prior.

They ended up reducing restaurant capacity to 25 percent and when we asked if there was evidence to justify the reduction they said, “We don’t want to become another California or Arizona.” CBS News later asked for data and never received any. 

At that time the Wolf administration also announced that private parties would be reduced from 250 inside to 25, so you can imagine all of the events that had to be canceled. This is when the restaurant industry began to lose faith in the administration. We heard stories about restaurants that had ordered thousands of dollars’ worth of food. You could also argue that pushing parties out of regulated places into unregulated places could also cause the spread.

Q: Has waiving liquor license fees helped?

A: It means almost nothing because the average fee is between $600 and $1,500. This year’s fees were deferred, but if they want next year’s deferred, they will have to pay this year’s fees. I’ve heard operators say that they could make that up in one evening at 50 percent capacity.

Q: Which types of restaurants have the best chance at weathering this storm

A: Quick serve, like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King since they are already set up for drive through. Some are eliminating overhead by keeping their dining rooms closed.

Q: How are mom and pop’s doing, compared to chains?

A: Both are in the same boat because they are all suffering and can’t spread money over their portfolio.

Q: How has the PLRA’s Advocacy Fund helped business owners through this crisis?

A: Initially, hotels were not included as essential businesses and we were influential in getting the administration to update that list. We learned quickly that information flow was very important. We became a news organization and published “The Daily Update.” We also created a weekly webinar to pass on information. We wanted to help furloughed employees, so we worked to expedite unemployment compensation and enhanced unemployment compensation. We also waived dues for non-members and have had 145 new restaurants join PRLA since the pandemic started because they recognize the value of what we’re doing and that’s been gratifying.

Q: How might another lockdown affect the hospitality industry?

A: The July 15 mitigation orders certainly hurt business. The administration thought they were doing the right thing, but I would be surprised if they go into further mitigation. Everyone knows that, for the most part, they are making it up as they go and so they keep trying new things but I’m not sure that a lockdown will happen again.

Q: What more would you like to have seen from the state and federal government?

A: There’s a billion dollars in federal money from the CARES Act that has yet to be distributed here in Pennsylvania and we’d like to see that expedited.

We are also watching HB2615 sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) which will provide community assistance grants for restaurants and will create a 250 million grant fund with up for 50 thousand dollars per location.

Q: How would you say the future of the industry has been affected and how will that affect other businesses?

A: Financing could be an issue for future restaurants. In the past, you saw a restaurant close and another new one would take its place, but that isn’t going to happen now. Cities could also be affected.  In Pennsylvania, 63 percent of the operators said that it’s unlikely that they would be in business six months from now if conditions do not change.

Local payment processor seeks to raise $200M for hospitality industry

With restaurants and other hospitality businesses facing some of the earliest and largest financial losses from COVID-19, one local company established an online resource to help raise more than $200 million for them.

Shift4 Payments, an integrated payment processing solutions company in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, launched Shift4Cares.com, an online resource for government agencies, news outlets and businesses affected by COVID-19. The website offers information on the economic impact of this pandemic and is part of Shift4’s plan to raise more than $200 million nationwide for restaurants and other small businesses — including up to $10 million contributed directly from the company through a gift card initiative.

The states leading the hospitality transaction declines in the wake of COVID-19 are California (91%), Pennsylvania (89%), Texas (89%) and New York (88%). Shift4 Payments, a local company, is working to raise more than $200 million nationwide for restaurants and other small businesses. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED)

Consumers can go to Shift4Cares.com to buy gift cards for their favorite local restaurants and other businesses to provide their favorite establishments with much needed revenue during this difficult time, said Terry Sullivan, chief of staff for Shift4 Payments. For every gift card purchased through the site, Shift4 Payments will contribute an additional 5% to the business — up to $10 million. For example, a $100 gift card purchase on the site would result in $105 for the merchant.

“We are doing what we can to raise awareness,” Sullivan said. “We specialize in hospitality, which is really restaurants and hotels. The pandemic is really having an impact. We are seeing a tremendous decline in payment volumes.”

While the impact is national, Pennsylvania is among those hardest hit.

The states leading the declines are California (91%), Pennsylvania (89%), Texas (89%) and New York (88%). Nationally, restaurant transactions declined from 42 million to 11 million during this time, while hotel transactions declined from 144 million to 20 million.

Data on the site for the last seven days shows that hospitality industry transactions are down significantly when compared to the week of Feb. 2, with restaurant transactions down 74%, hotels down 86% and all other industries down 64%.

Nationwide and state-by-state data is available at Shift4Cares.com.

“We’ve been going through this data and we are seeing how substantial that is,” Sullivan said. “This is just a way to help our customers, our businesses across the country to get much-needed revenue.”

Shift4 Payments also waived many processing fees for its clients, including the fee for the device used for curbside delivery and online orders, he said.

Shift4 processes more than 3.5 billion transactions annually for more than 200,000 businesses nationwide, representing more than $200 billion in payments each year.