State Dining Room
2:47 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. We’re here with the leaders of the restaurant industry. It’s an industry that’s been tremendously impacted by what’s happening with COVID, and it’s an industry that we’re working very hard with and on. We’re looking at doing deductibility so that a corporation can use a restaurant or entertainment clubs, et cetera, and get deductibility. I think that’ll really have a big impact. Steve can maybe talk about it — Steve Mnuchin.
But I’d like to have some of these leaders talk about — real quickly — about their company and the industry and any ideas they have, and I think we can do it in front of the media for a little while, and then we can answer a couple of questions, and we’re going to get back to business. Okay?
MR. CIL: Well, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Scalia, and everyone else here, including my — my brethren from the restaurant industry: Thanks so much for — for having us here. It’s an honor for me to be here representing 10,000 restaurants in the U.S. We have Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons. These restaurants are owned by small businesses. We have franchisees from coast to coast that — that work day in, day out. We have team members that are in the restaurants day in and day out.
We have — we’ve been in the restaurants, working as an essential service since the beginning of the crisis in March. We have had our drive-throughs open and delivery open, but we’ve still had a tremendous impact on our business. And so we’re really looking forward to the process of reopening the economy, reopening the country.
We already have about 1,000 locations around the country that have started to open the dining rooms with reduced capacity. We’ve added PPE. We’ve added safe social distancing in the restaurants to ensure that people can come in. We have acrylic screens in the front counter. We have masks and gloves for the employees to ensure that everyone feels safe — our guests and our team members.
And I just wanted to thank the President. Mr. President and your administration, I think you’ve acted quickly and swiftly and with good measure. The CARES Act and the PPP had a tremendous impact on our businesses. I mean, I think there’s a lot, we think, that it can do to make a very good program even better.
One of the things that we’ve talked about as we were kind of chatting here is this idea of extending the eight-week deadline. We think that eight-week deadline, when it — when it was implemented, was probably — you know, eight weeks probably seemed like an eternity. But today, we’re — we’re in the 10th week of the pandemic, and I think it’s going to take some time for our restaurants and our owners to get back to the capacity levels and the traffic levels that we were seeing pre-COVID.
And so a little more time, we think — probably taking it to 24 weeks — would be appropriate to allow for restaurant owners that are participating the program to be able to manage through and rehire the employees, which is what the purpose of PPP was intended for.
There was two other things that I think are important for us. One is we think business liability protection for small businesses is important. You know, we’re going to see potentially — with the reopening of the economy, with the reopening of small restaurants, we’re going to see frivolous, I think, and unfounded lawsuits against restaurant owners, against small businesses that are trying to do the right thing, trying to survive, and trying to keep their — their businesses going. So we — we firmly believe that protection from these types of frivolous lawsuits would be helpful.
And then finally, to the extent that there’s additional federal assistance that’s targeted for the restaurant industry, I think the restaurant industry as a whole took about — participated to the tune of about 9 percent of the PPP, and we think there should be additional funds available for us to be able to weather and continue to weather the storm.
But we’re really proud to be here, proud to be part of this extraordinary group of restaurant leaders, and thank you so much for the opportunity to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. That’s a lot. Ten thousand restaurants. And some big — that’s some big group and a good group, too. I know — I know your chains, and I know a lot about your company. It’s a great company. So you’ll be back very soon, I have no doubt about it. And some of the things you mentioned, we’ll be talking about.
I do want to say before we go further: So this was a very big day therapeutically, cure-wise, and vaccine-wise. Tremendous progress has been made, as I’ve been saying for two weeks, because I’ve been seeing what’s going on and, I think, spearheading it largely. And this was a very, very — some big announcements are — are coming and have just come out, and the market is up almost 1,000 points. You’ll check your market, your — I’m sure you did before you walked in the room, but I imagine your company is doing better today than it was a week ago, right?
MR. CIL: We’re focused on the profitability of our franchisees. That’s my focus.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Okay, good. So what we have is big announcements coming, big announcements have already come, and tremendous progress has been made — therapeutically, cure-wise, and also, obviously, vaccine. To me, thera- — therapeutically and cure is more important than vaccine because it’s immediate. And if we have something — even people that are very sick right now, we try and expedite everything so it goes really quickly — really, really quickly. Like, “Let’s get it going, immediately.”
So if you have somebody that’s not going to make it, if you have somebody that’s going to pass away, going to die, and if we have something that we think works, we want to get them immediately into those hospitals or wherever the people are located. So that’s being talked about also with the FDA, with Dr. Stephen Hahn, who’s doing a fantastic job. And so we’re trying to expedite things,
But very importantly, just overall, what big news it is, medically. We are so far ahead of where you would normally be, just from a logistical standpoint.
And that’s the other thing: We’re also gearing up and close to geared up because we have tremendous people in the military. So they’ll be able to deliver service very rapidly.
So, a lot of good things are happening, and let’s see what happens in the very near future.
Steve, do you have anything to say?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I just want to add, Mr. President, that – thank you for all being here. We appreciate how many people you employ as an industry and the special issues that we have, and we look forward to continuing to work with you.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you very much. How are you doing on deductibility, Steve? How’s that going? Good? Good.
MR. RODRIGUE: Thank you, Mr. President. Really appreciate you gathering us here today. This is a great representation of restaurants from across the country: José with his 10,000, my two on Bourbon Street. I am the president and CEO of Galatoire’s. We’ve been there since 1905.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Right.
MR. RODRIGUE: And, you know, restaurants are the cornerstone of so many communities. Where some big — big business is absent, restaurants are there, and we employ so many people. We just appreciate how swiftly you all have acted to bring relief our way.
We think with just a few small changes in cover period and length of the cover period on the forgiveness of PPP, we have a real great opportunity.
And, you know, just the very nature of restaurants in general: We rely on social interaction. So it makes us really unique that we were hit hard quickly, and it’s going to make our comeback really difficult.
That being said, I’m glad to hear your news that there’s —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Well, my news negates what you just said because you would — you would be back into business like you had it.
MR. RODRIGUE: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: No seats lost, et cetera, et cetera. So we’ll see what happens, but it certainly negates it. Yeah.
MR. RODRIGUE: Yeah. So, you know, in the interim, we appreciate the opportunity to be in front of you. Longer cure periods on the — on the — test periods on the loans would be incredible. You know, a city like New Orleans, we have 1,500 restaurants but only 400,000 people. And so when you look at that, where — how do we survive? We survive with leisure and business travelers. Nineteen million visitors last year. And that being said, you know, it’s going to take us a little time to ramp back up.
So we’re looking forward to that period of time, and we believe that you guys have the opportunity to help us. We greatly appreciate it. We survived Hurricane Katrina. We’ve survived the BP oil spill. Restauranteurs are a resilient groups. Very tenacious. And so we’re there, and we appreciate your help.
THE PRESIDENT: So your area was amazing because it was hit hard, but it was very late. We didn’t think it was going to be hit at all, and then all of a sudden, it spiked up after you had a certain event. And who knows what caused it, but maybe it was that.
MR. RODRIGUE: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: And then it — it’s doing incredibly well right now. It’s really down at a low number.
MR. RODRIGUE: Yeah, we’ve made great progress. The governor has done a really good job. That being said, you know, 25 percent capacity is tough.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
MR. RODRIGUE: To literally think that this week, when we reopen at 25 percent, we’ll lose —
THE PRESIDENT: No.
MR. RODRIGUE: — more money than last week because now we’re incurring expenses.
THE PRESIDENT: You got to get 100 percent, okay?
MR. RODRIGUE: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got to get up, and it’s — I hope it’s going to be up very fast. I hope the governor does that pretty quickly. Let’s see how it goes. A lot has to do with what I said in my opening remarks.
Ivanka, do you have anything to say? I know you like this industry.
MS. TRUMP: Well, I’ve spoken with many of the people around this table over the course of the past several weeks and beforehand, and I do think it’s worth noting the Paycheck Protection Program has given restaurants alone, that industry alone, over $30 billion of relief, representing a quarter of a million restaurants nationwide. And that’s just where we are today.
So, the feedback has been tremendously helpful. The Secretaries made some changes in the guidance and to — of course, in forming new policy as we come out of this.
But we really appreciate your being here, and we thank you for the feedback.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, honey.
MR. GUIDARA: Hi, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary, all of you. Thank you for having us. My name is Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park in New York City, but I’m also a founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. We started just seven weeks ago.
And we’re here because we got together to represent the 500,000 independent restaurants across America. I’m talking about the mom and pops, your local diner, the pizza place, the pasta joint, and the three-Michelin-star restaurant, and honestly, everything in between — the things that represent the cultural fabric of our cities and of our towns and the things that I believe, as a country, we need to fight to keep.
We also represent the 11 million people that work in those independent restaurants across the country.
Listen, it’s clear that this administration cares about our industry, and it’s also clear that all of you understand the extent to which we are more specifically vulnerable than a lot of other industries in America. And I think that’s why we’re here today.
And so I think it’s just important to take a moment and acknowledge that and say thank you, that we’re taking this time.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Will, very much.
MR. GUIDARA: PPP is important, and the changes that have already been talked about and are going to continue being talked about today are very important. And if those changes are made such that people feel confidence that they can spend that money and have it forgiven, I think that will be the thing that allows our restaurants to reopen.
That said, we need something more than that, that is specific to independent restaurants, in order for our restaurants to stay open. Everyone here knows that, last month alone — I think in the first half of April — more than one out of four people that applied for unemployment were restaurant workers. One out of four. It’s just insane.
And so we’ve put forward a plan to members of Congress and to this administration that we put forward because it’ll put all of those people that are currently unemployed back to work, such that, by the third quarter of this year, we’re going to be looking at unemployment reports that are astonishingly good, not to mention the supply chain that we represent. If restaurants go down, the commercial real estate industry, the farming industry —
And so our plan helps bring unemployment back to where it needs to be, and it supports a lot of our other industries that rely on independent restaurants for their survival.
And so we appreciate being here. We’d love the opportunity to talk more about this. I know that in times like this, a lot of people have their hands out. I don’t take that lightly. I do believe that independent restaurants are more vulnerable than most and a really important part of this nation, and I don’t want to lose them.
So we appreciate your consideration and your support.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you very much, Will. Appreciate it.
MR. KUDLOW: Thank you, sir. Forty-eight states are opening. That’s a big plus. And the vaccination research news was great today. So we see it in the stock market.
I want to thank everybody for being here. We are working hard. Steve mentioned the tax deductions for restaurants. We’re also working very hard on the COVID-19 liability restrictions. That’s going to be a key part of our next package.
And I just want to say — I guess I’m usually the optimist, but we’re in a terrible pandemic contraction here in the second quarter — we know that — and there’s a lot of hardship and a lot of heartbreak. But there’s also a few glimmers of hope of recovery, because I know you, sir, believe in the second-half recovery and I do too. And I think with the right policies, we can have a booming next year.
But the signs are: housing demand looks better, gasoline demand looks better, the Apple mobility index looks better. That’s, you know, people dialing up to see who’s — where to get from A to B. New York State’s Empire State Manufacturing Index was up enormously. I don’t know where that came from, but it was. Unemployment claims each week look terrible, but they’re a lot less terrible from, you know, 7 million to 3 million. So there are some glimmers of hope. Kevin has some data on better credit card numbers.
So it’s a tough haul, but I think things are starting to turn. That’s my take. I wish everybody luck.
THE PRESIDENT: I think so, Larry, maybe much more than people understand. And you’re starting to see that. Going to come back strong.
MR. BODENSTEDT: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Scalia, Secretary: I want to thank you for having us here today. I have restaurants across the United States. We average 27 employees per restaurant. These are the small businesses across — in each of these communities — that those 27 people have families, have mortgages, have rents, have car payments to make every day.
And being able to stay open and work with the governors and get the PPP money, and to be able to give people reassurances that tomorrow is going to be better than it was today, and to give them that hope has been really important for us, our business, and those families. And I want to thank you for your leadership and your team’s leadership in doing so.
One of the things we talk about in the business is how well we talk about treating others and bringing people into the family and bringing them into the restaurant like you’re bringing them into your home. And that’s what we do in the restaurant business every day: We treat everyone like family. In doing so, and having the leadership here has been really helpful to us and the entire industry.
And frankly, you know, eight weeks, nine weeks ago, I was thinking about this Chinese nightmare, and I didn’t want it to affect the American Dream that we all had. And I’m a success story about the American Dream, going from $3.45 an hour, starting at the front counter in a fast food restaurant, to what we have today. And I couldn’t be prouder —
THE PRESIDENT: How many — how many restaurants?
MR. BODENSTEDT: I own and operate 765 restaurants across the United States now.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fantastic. Wow.
MR. BODENSTEDT: And it’s a — I couldn’t be — it’s an American Dream, sir. And I appreciate everything everyone is doing here to keep that dream going, and the tomorrow is going to be better than today, and I appreciate that. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: If we get deductibility, you’ll do better than you did two months ago.
MR. BODENSTEDT: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s my opinion.
Please, go ahead, Kevin. Give it — let us — let us know what’s going to happen.
MR. HASSETT: Yeah. Sir, you know, first of all, you might recall when we first started talking about the economic damage that was coming from the shutdown, that we emphasized right from the beginning that this industry and the travel industry were going to be the hardest hit. And so we’ve been focused like a laser beam on coming up with policy ideas to do something about it. And, as you said, we’ve got a really good plan.
The thing I could say is that, if you look at the real-time data, as Larry said, that you really are starting to see glimmers of hope, and maybe even, like, you could even characterize it a little more optimistically than that. Larry is being super cautious. But the credit card data are really going up. The number of businesses open in the country is skyrocketing. I mean, the country is getting back now.
And I think that there’s a great reason for optimism for this group because you can really see things going much, much faster forward than I expected. I know you know I was pretty depressed about how bad it looked and how slow it was going to be a few weeks ago, but now you can really see it turning on faster than I thought.
THE PRESIDENT: Yep. There’s a tremendous demand — tremendous pent-up demand. It’s true.
MR. HASSETT: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t forget, we turned it off artificially. You know, it was just stopped. We went from the greatest economy in history, of any country, to, “We have to stop.” And we saved, by doing that, millions of lives. We saved hundreds of thousands, but probably millions of lives. And we did the right thing.
And now we have to open, and now we’re going to do great. And if we — if this comes along, what we’re hearing medically from these great companies, these great geniuses, if this happens, that’s really — that’s really going to be something.
So, great job. Thank you.
MR. HASSETT: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
MR. IRBY: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Scalia, Secretary Mnuchin, it’s an honor to be here today. My name is Marvin Irby, and on behalf of the National Restaurant Association, thank you for convening this meeting and these industry leaders on this very important subject.
To be honest with you, normally at this time, I’d spend a lot of time telling you about this industry, but what’s been clear over the last several months is that you get it. This administration gets it. You know everything about our world-famous chefs, our esteemed independence, our beloved brands that dot every community in this country.
And I’m proud to say that for over 100 years, the National Restaurant Association has represented all restaurants that play a key role in our society and an integral role in our food chain.
I have the opportunity that I get to speak to restauranteurs every single day. And I can confirm we desperately want to reopen. Our restaurants are desperate and are heartbroken that, at this time, we can’t provide the support and the comfort to the communities in which we serve.
For too many restaurants right now, this incident happened 60 days ago that has crippled us. And before today’s news, we did not see an end date until later this year.
Programs like the Paycheck Protection Program are an incredible first step. And thank you, Secretary Mnuchin, for this program, which has benefitted millions of small companies throughout this country.
We also appreciate Ivanka Trump’s dedication to our industry. And I personally want to thank you for the time you’ve taken to talk to our board over the last months of this crisis.
Mr. President, the Payroll Protection Program would be a godsend if we could make one change: if we could extend the time that we need — that we have to spend the proceeds. In too many communities today, the eight-week period is simply not enough time.
THE PRESIDENT: So how much — how much time do you want?
MR. IRBY: Twenty-four weeks.
THE PRESIDENT: How about 30 weeks?
MR. IRBY: Thirty weeks works. Thirty weeks works.
THE PRESIDENT: How about — how about 75 weeks?
MR. IRBY: Ehhh —
THE PRESIDENT: I know a couple of you — you’ll never stop. Right? (Laughter.) I know a couple of guys in this room.
No, I understand. So you think it needs to be what? What would you say would be a minimum length?
MR. IRBY: Twenty-four weeks.
THE PRESIDENT: How much?
MR. IRBY: Twenty-four weeks. You need to give our smaller restauranteurs the opportunities to open, to begin to have demand, and bring back the employees.
THE PRESIDENT: Is that — what were you going to say in terms of timing?
MR. GUIDARA: Yeah, I think for the PPP fixes, if we can take it from 8 weeks to 24 weeks.
THE PRESIDENT: Is that the — no, is the term —
MR. GUIDARA: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: — more or less the term you’re thinking about?
MR. GUIDARA: And then move June 30th to October 31st. If those two changes were made to that program, it would change it dramatically.
THE PRESIDENT: What’s more important: that or deductibility?
MR. GUIDARA: That.
MR. IRBY: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Really?
MR. GUIDARA: Deductibility is amazing, but it’s almost like we need to build the house first. Deductibility is the thing that makes the house —
THE PRESIDENT: Does anybody disagree with that? Because I think deductibility is the biggest thing you can possibly do.
MR. LOVE: Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Does anybody —
MR. LOVE: — I think that that if you — if what he’s saying is, if we could get the 24 weeks, which gets us to October 31st basically — right? — this allows us to get the young restaurateurs going and spend the money that you intended for them so that we can get out and show them what a great job you guys are doing.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. But you’re pretty unified on the number 24. Right?
MR. LOVE: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Go ahead, please.
MR. IRBY: And the best thing about it: It’s no additional money. It’s an extension of the current program.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
MR. IRBY: So —
THE PRESIDENT: Got it.
MR. GUIDARA: The deductibility thing is great —
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Can I — can I just —
MR. GUIDARA: I just don’t want to not support that. I think it’s just a matter of waiting. We need to get the restaurants open first, and these changes allow us to get them open.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I just wanted to clarify, because you said it’s “no additional money.” Are you saying just the time period goes — it’s 8 weeks going to 24? You still have eight weeks of money? Or you want 24 weeks of money?
MR. IRBY: No, we want 24 weeks in order to spend.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: To spend the eight weeks?
MR. IRBY: Correct.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Got it. Thank you for the clarification.
MR. RODRIGUE: We believe that if we elongate —
THE PRESIDENT: Is that correct? Does everybody agree with that?
MR. RODRIGUE: Yes, sir.
If we can elongate the test period, it gives us more staying power and we can spend that money and really get where we need to be good.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Good.
THE PRESIDENT: And what about the payroll tax, by the way? How do you feel about that? Is that a big deal?
MR. CIL: Yes, sir.
MR. GUIDARA: That would be an extraordinarily big deal.
THE PRESIDENT: And how does that compare with what we’re talking about with the time period — payroll tax?
MR. RODRIGUE: I would say deductibility, payroll tax deductions, all those things are spectacular, and we need them and they would be greatly beneficial.
THE PRESIDENT: But?
MR. RODRIGUE: We’re viewing the PPP fix as what we need to get out of the rut.
THE PRESIDENT: So the PPP was really a big deal, wasn’t it?
MR. RODRIGUE: Yes, sir. Massive.
THE PRESIDENT: So we hit it right. When we did it, we hit it right. Okay, thank you very much. Thank you.
MR. BODENSTEDT: It was such a — it was a such a big deal, sir, that we haven’t laid off a single person. And there’s 20,000 people that are paying their taxes, they’re paying their bills, and they’re doing all of that every day. And without that, I don’t think we would’ve been able to do that, sir. That’s how big a deal it is.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, good afternoon. Thank you so much for your leadership. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor to be here and I deeply appreciate the opportunity. My name is Niren. I represent Panera Bread. Panera has two and half thousand cafes, revenues of about $6 billion, and we employ 140,000 people.
The pandemic impacted us very deeply, as it did everybody else. We lost close to 50 percent of our revenue in the first week. Since then, it is slowly coming back, but we still have a long way to go.
Now, the health crisis —
THE PRESIDENT: So you got down by 50 percent or more than that?
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yeah. Fifty to sixty percent was the revenue decline.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s not bad.
MR. CHAUDHARY: And we are — and I think what’s — what’s good is that it’s actually coming back since that time —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MR. CHAUDHARY: — thanks to a lot of the innovation that we’ve been able to do.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. But — so you got — maximum, though — 50 percent of revenue lost. How’d you keep the other 50 percent?
MR. CHAUDHARY: So the 50 percent that we have by ensuring — so fortunately, I think, at Panera, we have very strong omnichannel business.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MR. CHAUDHARY: So we have delivery, rapid pickup, drive-through, and so on.
THE PRESIDENT: You did very well.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. Great job. Go ahead.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yeah. So, I think we’ve had to innovate very quickly, and I’ll share some — some of those ideas. So, I believe that the health crisis is now becoming a financial crisis, you know, with 36 million Americans unemployed, and a humanitarian crisis as well, with about 54 million Americans fighting hunger. And therefore, I think opening up the economy right now in a phased manner is the right thing to do. I also believe that we, as leaders, need to also step up and do the right thing at this time and do what we can do — what’s in our control.
And I’ll share some ideas and thoughts in terms of what Panera has been doing, largely with the intent to innovate and do that with compassion and heart.
So for our furloughed employees, you know, we have free family meals every week for them, emergency relief funds, and also we’ve made arrangements with peer companies that are actually hiring at this time — like CVS, Walmart — to hire our furloughed employees temporarily, and then return them back.
For customers, we’ve innovated very quickly. We’ve launched the curbside pickup service with geofencing, and also free Wi-Fi outside the cafes because life is moving to outside the cafes, and also doing a lot for our communities, especially those impacted most by the pandemic. So doctors and nurses –we’re serving about 50,000 meals to doctors and nurses in New York; children in the state of Ohio, with our partnership with USDA. And also, we’ve launched a program called Together Without Hunger with Feeding America, and have pledged to serve half a million meals to children and families through — through Feeding America.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
MR. CHAUDHARY: So, I think, it’s very important at this time that I think we need to also step up and contribute. We were able to keep 85 percent of our cafes open. We were determined to keep them open so that we could keep our associates employed at that time. And therefore, now, we’re beginning to open up the dining areas in phases, following all of the guidelines, but also have stringent protocols that we’ve put in place, like plexiglass barriers, wellness stations for temperature checks, social distancing norms, et cetera.
I think —
Q Will you be keeping any of that? I mean, there are some innovations that have been made. Some people say, “Maybe we’ll keep it.” Would you be keeping any of that or not really?
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yes. We — I think this is — there’s going to be a shift in how the consumers are going to interact with brands, and I think it is time for us to innovate. So another example is —
THE PRESIDENT: Would you ever keep the plex- — plexiglass barriers?
MR. CHAUDHARY: So, I think we’ll keep the plexiglass barriers.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I mean, on a permanent basis, I’m talking about.
MR. CHAUDHARY: I think, at least over the next six to nine months.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. But could you see that being permanent? Because, hopefully, you’re not going to have it that long, by the way — nine months. But would you see a thing like that — you’d have to build a nicer version of it, you know, as opposed to quickly throwing it up. But would you see something like that being permanent possibly?
MR. CHAUDHARY: I think, hopefully, if the virus is an under control and we’ve gotten to the other side of it, and then we can get back to life as we once knew it.
THE PRESIDENT: You’d rather not have it?
MR. CHAUDHARY: We’d rather move back to life as we once knew it, and we’d rather not —
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yeah. Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Exactly.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Another, I think, interesting innovation is that recognizing that there’s so much high friction with high-demand grocery items, where you can’t get them home delivered. We launched a new line of business called Panera Grocery in 10 days. And we’re delivering, you know, bakery items, fresh produce, dairy to customers in less than an hour, on the same day.
So, I think the good thing is: It’s forced us to really innovate and be very responsive.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MR. CHAUDHARY: I think the restaurant industry is deeply, deeply appreciative of all the support and the efforts that you and the administration have made. I think the CARES Act has been hugely welcomed.
I would like to, in particular, thank you for the PPP program because it’s made a huge difference to our franchise partners and our associates. I think, with a few of the amendments that we talked about — I’d fully agree with the 8 weeks and 24 weeks; I think that is badly needed. I think that will be hugely welcomed.
THE PRESIDENT: Steve, does that make sense from our standpoint? What do you think?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: We’re working on a technical fix that we do have bipartisan support for it to extend it. I’m not sure it’s that long. But I’ve spoken to the SBA committee and there is bipartisan support, so we’re working on that.
MR. CHAUDHARY: And I think we talked about the limited liability. I think that’s also a very important aspect. And thirdly —
THE PRESIDENT: The Democrats don’t want to give you lia- — the liability provisions. They just don’t want to have that. And it’s crazy that they don’t. But the Democrats do not want to give that to people, and that’s not a good thing.
MR. CHAUDHARY: And I think the third thing is, I think —
THE PRESIDENT: But we’ll get it anyway. Go ahead.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Our employees are — I think, if we can eliminate the friction in the furloughed employees being able to access their unemployment benefits, that will also be fantastic. And —
THE PRESIDENT: And that — the problem there is the states have old equipment, in many cases, and they’re unable to get the money — you know, we gave the money out immediately. But the states are unab- — some states are unable to give it out. They have 40-year-old equipment.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: And some states are unable to get their act together. But we gave that out long ago, as you probably know.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
MR. CHAUDHARY: Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Brooke, would you like to say a few words?
MS. ROLLINS: Mr. President, thank you. Just a few words. I am — I am so grateful for all of you being here today. I am struck by the stories of true American Dreams. I mean, starting at $3.45 an hour and then, ultimately, owning so many restaurants and hundreds of thousands. But I’m also — hundreds of thousands of employees. But I’m also struck by this President and Vice President’s commitment to our most vulnerable populations and their American Dream, and their American Dream working in all of your restaurants.
This President is the jobs President. I think that none of us, other than maybe my boss, realized the economy that we would achieve in just three short years, where there were more people — more jobs available than people to fill them. And what I am so encouraged by is the resoluteness and the conviction of this President, this Vice President, but truly the American entrepreneurs that are sitting around the table today.
And working alongside all of you, as we bring this country back to even greater heights than we ever knew possible — the transition to greatness — is really what America and the American Dream is all about.
So thank you all for being here. Know that we are here to help you always, and we are here to make sure that what this President led on and has achieved will be, once again, very, very soon.
So, thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Brooke. Great job.
MR. LOVE: Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, and secretaries for having me here today. My name is Tim Love. I’m a chef and owner of a few restaurants in Texas and Tennessee. I also am the chef of four major music festivals and food festivals around the country. So, I’ve — I’ve been greatly affected by obviously what’s happened here, along with everybody else in this room.
But what I wanted to speak to you about today is that — to touch on the PPP and to, kind of, clarify what we were saying: is the 24 weeks is only set up because certain restaurants aren’t able to open now. In Texas, we were able to open on May 1st, and I quickly activated the PPP and tried to get all my employees back. I’ve hired 80 percent of my workforce. I started with 490 employees. We’ve got about 400 employees already back.
And I will say it’s encouraging to see people come out. They’re excited. They want to be out.
THE PRESIDENT: What would’ve happened if you didn’t have PPP?
MR. LOVE: Well, if I didn’t have —
THE PRESIDENT: Would you have survived it? Would you have gotten by?
MR. LOVE: Probably would’ve gotten by, but this allows us to do it the way that we feel like it should be: to take care of the employees first. We want to take care of our employees and make sure they’re safe. Same activation we’re having opening the restaurants. We want to open the restaurants safely and make sure our employees are safe first so our guests can be safe.
I’d ask from the administration to put out that confidence to get the American people understanding that it is great to go out and that our economy is going to be great again, because we know where it was before it started. We know how — how to get there, clearly. So now, just with a couple of adjustments to things that are already written. To the Secretary’s point, we don’t need — we’re not asking for more money. We’re just asking the opportunity to spend it the way that you want us to spend it, the way it was intended: to take care of our employees when we’re able to open up. That’s it.
THE PRESIDENT: That should be easy, Steve, honestly.
MR. LOVE: Yes, sir, Mr. President. I think — I think you can — you can take care of that for sure.
THE PRESIDENT: Right?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Yeah, we’re — we’re working on it, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: That should be easy. Okay?
MR. LOVE: Yeah. And so —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s like one of the easiest requests I’ve ever heard, Larry. (Laughter.)
MR. FERTITTA: I’m going to get you (inaudible).
MR. LOVE: That — that leads me to my next request. (Laughter.) The — the 75/25, the way that it’s spent, I know it’s tough, but I’m speaking for my friends who are in New York — not necessarily for myself, even in Texas where the rents are higher — and they need the ability to spend the money on rent if necessary, so long as they’re hiring their employees back.
So while the number one thing is to get the workforce back, reduce unemployment, get people back to work — which is what I’m doing at 25 percent. Believe me, I’m not going and building new houses on my 25 percent of occupancy, but what I am doing is putting the great American people back to work that I love.
And the way we get the economy going is getting the workers back to work so they’re able to spend money and earn money, so therefore, we can keep the economy moving.
And so those two adjustments to the PPP, which — which, you know, don’t require any extra money from the administration or from Congress allows us to really move the economy forward, which I know is one of your number one things, especially as we’re moving along this year. And I think you can get a lot of people in our industry — the workers, the people that work very, very hard — to get behind you just to show that kind of confidence.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you will. How many restaurants are there total — everything — in the United States? How many are there?
PARTICIPANT: Six hundred fifty thousand.
THE PRESIDENT: How much?
PARTICIPANT: Six hundred fifty thousand.
THE PRESIDENT: Six hundred fifty thousand restaurants. Who would —
PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible) 11 percent of the United States.
THE PRESIDENT: Who would think that’s — 11 percent of the overall? Six hundred and fifty thousand restaurants. Who would ever think that’s possible even, right? That’s good. And it’s been a great business over the years, and it’ll be better than ever.
MR. LOVE: And there will be 650,000 again, so long as you keep doing what you’re doing there, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fantastic. Yeah, no, it’s — I think deductibility gets that. Actually, I think you’ll —
MR. LOVE: I would agree with that.
THE PRESIDENT: — you’ll go up very substantially. They got rid of a lot of restaurants when they ended that. People don’t realize that. Then you get used to it. You had fewer restaurants. They rent it to other things. Now I don’t know what they’re going to rent to, frankly.
MR. LOVE: And to your point about that, sir, the deductibility — which you can easily identify with and it does spread wealth amongst the restaurants, most definitely — we’re talking just about an immediate concern with the PPP to get people moving forward —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MR. LOVE: — so that we can get this deductibility going.
THE PRESIDENT: I — I agree. No, I agree. We’ll — we’ll look at that very strongly.
MR. LOVE: Yes, sir. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
MR. FERTITTA: Hello, Mr. President. And it seems how important this — it is to all of y’all this subject, because I haven’t seen this much firepower from all of y’all, except at a state dinner or a Christmas party. So I appreciate, Mr. President, that all of you guys are here because I know you’re really trying to get something done.
I own a company, Landry’s, which is in 40 states, and is all full-service restaurants. So I average like 150 employees per restaurant. And it’s everything from Del Frisco’s, to Mastro’s, to Martin’s, The Palm. But then it’s, on the other side, the Bubba Gumps, the Rainforest, and they’re all company owned.
This — it’s been devastating, and it’s — you know, it’s funny you brought up about China. I should have realized was going to be a bad year for China when my general manager tweeted out, you know, “Freedom for Hong Kong.” (Laughter.) So that started my year with China.
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) And you kept it quiet, right? You kept that quiet.
MR. FERTITTA: So — so I’m still trying to work that out. And here comes something else —
THE PRESIDENT: He owns the Houston Rockets, in case you don’t know. And he’s a great — and, by the way, he’s a great guy, great family, great everything. And, yeah, he did cause you a little raucous, didn’t he? Whatever happened to him, by the way?
MR. FERTITTA: Yes. Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Is he still working for you?
MR. FERTITTA: Yes, he is.
THE PRESIDENT: He must be pretty good.
MR. FERTITTA: Yes, because it’s just — it’s a trick question. (Laughter.) But he is. So — so — but, Mr. President, everybody is talking about the PPP. And the — when — when your team designed the PPP and said, “Let’s bring it through the SBA,” I think it was an unbelievable idea. And you did exactly what you needed to do.
But I’m one of those people, when it started being pitted against — because I’m a sole proprietor, but I do $4 billion in revenue. And I would’ve been that billionaire that took the money from the little business. So I was not able to take the PPP money. And I caught so much criticism because I was the first person who did lay off 40,000 employees, because the world doesn’t understand that when you shut everything down, from your casinos — which you and I did a few deals together from the Rainforest to the Trump Marina — your tail of your payroll was $150 million the next two weeks. And we all pay —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
MR. FERTITTA: — yesterday’s bills with today’s income. And I wanted to put 40,000 people back to work May the 1st but couldn’t take the — the criticism. And even from the administration, there was some that bigger companies shouldn’t be taking this money. But I don’t have the ability to put those 40,000 people back to work.
So I just wished that — don’t add any money, but just divide it up and say —
THE PRESIDENT: So you’re saying that because your restaurants aren’t split up among thousands of people that own restaurants, and you have it yourself in the company.
MR. FERTITTA: Yeah, that it would have been one person taking this money.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, so it’s — it’s a —
MR. FERTITTA: But you — but your team specifically wrote the bill for any restaurant under 500. It — this was for the restaurant business —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MR. FERTITTA: — which has only gotten 9 percent of the money. But if you would just split it up — and I’m not saying add any more money, but add a category for the larger private restauranteur that could go out and take this money and put it in a different bucket so it wouldn’t be me taking this money away from the little beauty salon.
THE PRESIDENT: So what happened to you then, Tilman? So where are you on that whole thing? How did you do with the PPP?
MR. FERTITTA: Well —
THE PRESIDENT: How did you — how did it work out for your company?
MR. FERTITTA: I took the money and sent it back and did not spend a dollar of it, because I —
THE PRESIDENT: Because — because they found out you’re very rich and they said, “What the hell?”
MR. FERTITTA: You know what? But I also was the first person that opened the leveraged finance market and went and borrowed $300 million —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MR. FERTITTA: — at 12 percent, where just three months earlier, borrowed at 3 percent because I needed the liquidity to keep the company afloat.
THE PRESIDENT: So, what’d you do? You went out very early, right? For the money? And you’ve — you found the market were — it was opened, even at that early date.
MR. FERTITTA: Yes. I borrowed $300 million to add to liquidity, but I still — it wasn’t enough to hire back all my employees, which I would have loved to have done with the PPP.
THE PRESIDENT: What’d you do with your basketball players that are making $25 million a year? (Laughs.)
MR. FERTITTA: I have two of them that make $40 [million]. (Laughs.) Russell and James.
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, they are good players.
MR. FERTITTA: They are good, but they — yes, they are getting paid —
THE PRESIDENT: Could I ask you, just out of curiosity —
MR. FERTITTA: — because it was a collective bargaining agreement, and that’s why —
THE PRESIDENT: Tilman, what’s going to happen with basketball? Can you give us a — because I would be interested. Do you have any idea what they’re doing now?
MR. FERTITTA: Yes. Yes. (Laughs.) I think what they’re doing is waiting to see what happens in certain states and if we’re going to be able to play, making sure the virus continues to go in the right direction in the next few weeks. And I think that if things keep going the way that it’s going, I think the NBA, the commissioner, Adam Silver, who’s done an unbelievable job through this, and the 30 — the owners, I think will make the decision to try to start the season up again.
THE PRESIDENT: Will you finish the season or not?
MR. FERTITTA: I think that there’s talk about finishing the season, playing x amount of games. The players need to play to get paid. And right now, they’re taking a 25 percent pay cut. And — because they own 50 percent of our revenues, the players, unlike the other sports. And so they — they want that revenue and that television revenue, even if it’s not the people in the stand’s revenue, so they can get paid.
THE PRESIDENT: Could you go immediately to playoffs or is that not really possible?
MR. FERTITTA: I think that they would use the — I think that we would play some games just to get it going again —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Right. I agree.
MR. FERTITTA: — and create the interest and then go right into the playoffs. But I think it will be great for America. We’re all missing sports. And everybody, you know, wants to see these great NBA teams. But —
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Good luck with that.
MR. FERTITTA: Thank you.
But just create a category for us, Mr. Secretary — (laughs) — where we —
THE PRESIDENT: Steve, what do you think about that? I mean, he’s got a unique situation. You know, he has a lot of restaurants. It’s a big company. But —
MR. FERTITTA: But I can’t pay them.
THE PRESIDENT: You have other people where the company is the same size, but you have 2,000 owners. What do you think of that?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Well, it’s a complicated issue, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: That is a complicated —
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: As I’ve said before, we didn’t anticipate the Los Angeles Lakers, who I’m a big fan of, would be taking a PPP loan. And, as a result of that, there was a lot of backlash around that.
THE PRESIDENT: Who paid it back.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: And we went through the certifications, and —