WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, the National Restaurant Association called for passage of an economic stimulus package it believes would help the foodservice industry recover from business declines following September's terrorist attacks.
The House of Representatives has passed legislation to bolster the economy, but the issue has not yet been addressed by the Senate.
The NRA recently launched the Cornerstone Initiative Public Relations Campaign, a multimillion dollar effort to promote the role of restaurants in the nation's economy.
Attending the conference were high-ranking GOP House leaders such as Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
Chris Ricchi, owner of I Ricchi restaurant in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Association's Board of Directors, and Lisa Martinez, a 22-year-old server at I Ricchi, spoke on behalf of beleaguered restaurateurs and employees, explaining how the slump has impacted them.
"My livelihood depends upon this job," Martinez said. "It has been very difficult for me to provide for my daughter when I don't know how many hours I am going to work, don't know how much I am going to make in tips and don't know what tomorrow's shift is going to be like."
Among foodservice industry segments most impacted by the terrorist attacks are fine-dining restaurants, restaurants in tourist destinations and restaurant-and-foodservice outlets in airports. Additionally, the number of restaurant jobs lost this fall alone showed the worst such declines in the industry's history: 103,000 in September and 241,400 in October.
Earlier this year, the NRA predicted total restaurant sales would hit $399 billion in 2001, but it's likely that recent declines will put the total significantly short of that.
"My restaurant has seen a 60 percent drop in sales since September 11," Ricchi said. "I've gone to great lengths to not have to let any of my employees go, and I don't know how long that can continue because I have had to scale back on their hours."
Ricchi added that legislators should move quickly to help an industry as large and vital to the U.S. economy as foodservice.
"Congress needs to act now on legislation to help stimulate the economy -- encourage people to resume their daily activities, restore business travel and encourage people to visit cities like Washington, D.C.," she said.