Independent Restaurant Coalition: On a Mission to Save Restaurants

Learn how the Independent Restaurant Coalition is supporting independent restaurant owners and the employees affected by the pandemic.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) was founded in order to support and save independent restaurant owners and the employees who are struggling as a result of COVID-19. In the United States, 11 million people are employed at bars and restaurants, and an additional five million work along the food supply chain. This constitutes a significant portion of the American workforce and these people have been greatly affected by the pandemic

History of the Independent Restaurant Coalition

In March 2020, independent restaurant owners and chefs from across the country joined forces as the Independent Restaurant Coalition to secure funds and protections for businesses and workers. Like the National Restaurant Association which has been a long-standing political advocate for bars and restaurants, the IRC is also working to provide a more powerful and unified voice that will hopefully influence legislative, policy, and regulatory issues that directly affect the industry. At the same time, they are advocating for individual members by providing advice and networking opportunities. 

Initiatives Taken by the Independent Restaurant Coalition

One of its major initiatives has been pushing Congress to pass relief bills that would support local restaurants and help them weather the pandemic. The Independent Restaurant Coalition has also been working with the Small Business Administration and the White House to streamline the relief grant application process so that bars and restaurants can have access to essential funds more quickly. These efforts have been met with some success.

On March 6, 2021, the Senate voted to pass the American Rescue Plan. The bill includes a grant program that will distribute $28.6 billion to bars and restaurants. The Small Business Administration will be overseeing the program. While this is the first federal grant program for bars and restaurants, the Independent Restaurant Coalition proposed a similar act in April 2020. The original RESTAURANT Act did not pass, but it did provide a model for this latest act. 

What is an Independent Restaurant?

Essentially, an independent restaurant is owned and operated by an individual. They are not part of a larger corporation or restaurant chain. All the decisions, from the location, menu, and overall concept, are made by the owner. While this can be a dream come true for some owners, it does come with a certain amount of risk. 

Advantages of Being an Independent Restaurant Owner

  • Control over every aspect of the business
  • Get to keep all the profits
  • Minimal investments are needed
  • Get to learn quickly on the job

Disadvantages of Being an Independent Restaurant Owner

  • Restaurants are a risky business, especially for first-time owners
  • Overseeing the business requires a lot of time and work
  • It can be difficult to achieve operational efficiency without the right rules and policies

Profitable Restaurant Businesses

One way to work towards running a successful business is to open the right type of bar or restaurant. Some are more profitable than others. Here are some of the most profitable restaurants.

  1. Bars. Alcohol comes with the highest markup of any item on the menu, which means more opportunities for profit. Pubs and bar and grilles that serve food, but focus on alcohol sales can also turn a nice profit. You can expect to earn around $300,000 annually by owning a bar, but keep in mind startup costs and other expenses. 
  2. Diners. Since breakfast foods are relatively cheap to make, diners are a profitable endeavor. It also helps that business at diners has increased recently. Businesses might be slow outside of breakfast hours, but you can offset this with extended hours and offering breakfast all day.
  3. Food trucks. Recent statistics show that food truck owners earn over $150,00 per year. This restaurant model includes low overhead costs, limited menu items, and a small staff.  High-traffic events also offer big opportunities for profits.
  4. Delivery-only restaurants. Restaurants that only offer delivery are becoming more popular, especially in the wake of COVID-19. You can save a lot of money by taking away the dine-in option. You can also save on rent by choosing a ghost kitchen location off the beaten path.
  5. Farm-to-table restaurants. This model is most successful in high-end markets and big cities. Customers appreciate the ingredients are locally sourced and sustainable.
  6. Vegetarian restaurants. Surveys show that 37% of Americans eat a vegetarian meal when they dine out. Eating more plants comes with health and environmental benefits. For restaurants, skipping the cost of meat is also a big plus.
  7. Pizzeria. Pizzerias can earn $450,00 per year. While there can be significant costs involved, the basic ingredients for pizza are simple and affordable.
  8. Pasta restaurants. Pasta is another affordable ingredient that can be sold with a significant markup. At high-end restaurants, a pasta dish can go for $25-$30.
  9. Quick service restaurants. In 2018, quick service restaurants earned $256 billion. These convenient and affordable eateries optimize technology to cater to the needs of customers. Since dishes are cheap, high volume is the key to success.
  10. Buffet restaurants. This one may come as a surprise since customers are free to eat as much as they want; however, they are able to keep costs low by eliminating the need for a big staff and selling affordable ingredients in bulk. 

How Consumers Can Support Restaurants

Like the Independent Restaurant Coalition, consumers can help save their favorite local restaurants. Here are some simple steps you can take:

  1. Take advantage of contactless takeout options and restaurant-prepared meal kits
  2. Purchase gift cards
  3. Write positive reviews and take restaurant surveys to leave your feedback
  4. Engage with their social media accounts
  5. Purchase any available merchandise
  6. If dining out is allowed in your area, patronize independent restaurants
  7. Leave generous tips. Keep in mind that many employees have been out of work for most of the pandemic. Go over the typical 20% and show your support. 

Joining the Independent Restaurant Coalition

Whether you are a bar or restaurant owner, employee, or customer, there are steps you can take to save independent restaurants and make sure that they stay open during and after the pandemic. Practically anyone can join the Independent Restaurant Coalition and help advocate for restaurants and employees. Customers can show their support in a variety of ways. Finally, for those who have always wanted to open a restaurant, but may have been scared off by the pandemic, there is still a demand for food and ways to run a profitable independent restaurant. 


What is the Independent Restaurant Coalition? 

The IRC is a group of bar and restaurant owners who have come together to advocate for bar and restaurant workers who have been affected by COVID-19.

Who are the Independent Restaurant Coalition members? 

While the IRC was founded by chefs and restaurant owners, anyone who works in the industry is welcome to join. 

What has the IRC done to help restaurants during the pandemic?

From the start of the pandemic, the IRC has been a lobbying force with Congress and the White House. It has been advocating for workers and working to pass bills. On March 6th, 2021, the Senate passed a bill that will give $28.6 billion in relief funds.

How can I help an independent restaurant? 

Order takeout and restaurant prepared meal kits, purchase gift cards, buy restaurant merchandise, share social media posts, dine out (if you can), leave a generous tip (over 20%). 

What are independent restaurants?

Independent restaurants are owned and operated by a single entity that is separated from a corporation or chain.

What is independent restaurant ownership?

 An independent owner is responsible for all the decisions related to the restaurant. This position comes with advantages and disadvantages.

What is the most profitable restaurant business? 

Generally, a bar or a restaurant that focuses more on alcohol sales is the most profitable.  



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