Running a Food Business in the face of COVID-19

Resource Guide

Last updated: June 2020

We’ve compiled resources available for HR, financial, and other aspects of your business that are likely drastically impacted by the spread and precautions around COVID-19. This is a constantly evolving document -- as new resources come out, we’ll add them in here. Here’s a folder with additional resources referenced below. 

We are based in Massachusetts so a few of the resources may be relevant only to food businesses in our state.

If you are in a position to do so, please support CommonWealth Kitchen so we can continue to do this work.

Table of Contents:

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act

Capital / Financial Resources

HR / Employee Management

Legal Support

Alternative Revenue Solutions

Food Business-specific COVID-19 and crisis management resources

Resources (financial and otherwise) to share with Staff

Cutting Costs

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act

The bailout act contains significant provisions for small businesses, including self-employed business owners.

  • Adds Emergency Grant; if apply, can request up to $10,000 within 3 days; this portion forgivable regardless of approved or accept loan
  • Direct from SBA (not SBA lender)
  • Application live online: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/
  • Working capital loans of up to $2 million
  • Interest rate of 3.75% and a maximum 30-year term.
  • CAN get both EIDL and PPP loans, as long as the basis for the loans are different.
  • IF get PPP loan, EIDL grant is rolled over into total forgiveness under that program
  • A loan, but entire amount forgiven if return to existing staffing levels by June 30th (prorated amount forgiven if less than prior staffing)
  • Up to 500 employees, includes sole-proprietors, independent contractors, self-employed (up to $100k)
  • Loan amount = 250% of average monthly payroll (or biz income if owner), max $10 million, interest rate of 0.5%
  • Available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020
  • Requirements:
  • Documentation on payroll tax filings reported to IRS
  • Demonstration that uncertainty of current economic conditions makes loan necessary loan to support ongoing operations
  • Uses: retain workers and maintain payroll, make mortgage payments, utilities and necessary expenses
  • No fees from lender or borrower
  • Apply through 7a SBA lenders (local banks) beginning Friday 4/3 for small businesses and sole proprietors
  • Info sheet for borrowers
  • Sample Application form (individual lenders may have slightly different forms)
  • Application and supporting materials translated into 19 languages with technical assistance by MGCC here
  • Expanded Unemployment Eligibility / Benefits
  • Regular unemployment benefits extended by 13 weeks
  • Eligibility for unemployment benefits expanded to include sole proprietors
  • If you are a sole proprietor with no financials you can qualify for 50% of the MA average unemployment check
  • Federal unemployment supplement of $600/week through July 31st, even if not eligible for regular unemployment
  • See this FAQ on the increased unemployment benefits from the House Committee on Ways and Means.

See this excellent small business owner’s guide to the CARES Act assembled by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and this FAQ on the increased unemployment benefits in English and Spanish from the House Committee on Ways and Means. The US Chamber of Commerce assembled this helpful guide and checklist, which provides details on the Paycheck Protection Loan Program in an easy-to-read format. Note that the Paycheck Protection Loan program will enable small business owners, sole proprietors, and independent contractors to finance wages (including for self-employment).


Capital / Financial Resources

  • To be eligible you must:
  • employ between 3 and 20 people
  • be located in an economically vulnerable community
  • The Futures Fund ($3M) from The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) and The Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce (MALGBTCC). Open only to members of these organizations. Loan or line of credit for up to $50,000. No payments for 3 months with the option for a 3-month extension, 3% interest 10-year term. Requires: credit score of 600+, 1 year of past financials, 1 year of projections, tax and credit history, a sound plan for getting through the COVID-19 crisis, business assets (no personal assets), path to profitability, and meeting with a referral partner.
  • SBA Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources contains overview of all the loans the Small Business Administration Offers. Their LendersMatch online tool can help locate participating lenders. You can also look for local assistance via an SBA field office or resource partner.
  • Kiva - crowd funded 0% interest loan.
  • The Consumer Impact Loan Fund ($2 million) will provide loans of up to $5,000  @ 0% with no payments for the first three months, fixed rate of 3.99% thereafter.
  • The Small Business Impact Loan Fund ($5 million) will provide loans of up to $25,000 to existing small business customers in need of working capital. Interest only payments for the first six months, 3.99% thereafter
  • More information:  1-800-EASTERN (327-8376), heretohelp@easternbank.com.
  • Other sources of capital (without COVID-19 specific focus) are listed in CWK’s Funding Sources Resource here.

HR / Employee Management

  • The CARES Act has expanded eligibility to workers who are self-employed, 1099 independent contractors and those engaged in the gig economy.
  • There are also additional benefits available to those receiving unemployment ($600/week additional) and benefits have been expanded to those who have previously exhausted their unemployment benefits.
  • See MA Department of Unemployment Assistance COVID-19 information
  • Expands Family Leave Medical Act to employers with less than 500 employees
  • Includes leave for parents caring for child under 18 if their school is closed for public health emergency

Legal Support

The COVID Relief Coalition is a group of law firms, governmental agencies, and nonprofits (including our friends at Lawyers for Civil Rights) formed to provide advising to small business owners grappling with the impacts of COVID-19. Learn more / apply.

Alternative Revenue Solutions

  • Mercato is an online ordering and delivery service built for independent grocers and sellers
  • Fact sheet in the folder with key takeaways and contact information
  • For wholesalers-- How it works
  • MKT2DAY connects local growers and producers with customers who can’t go to farmers markets (or in this case, leave their house)
  • Customers use the Market 2Day app to find markets and items
  • They order thru the app
  • Vendors receive bulk orders from Market2day
  • Market 2day picks up the bulk orders, sorts them for individual customers and delivers them directly
  • Vendors are paid electronically in 2-5 business days
  • Online Delivery Platforms
  • Grubhub - Zero commission fees and community relief fund
  • DoorDash - Free delivery, zero commission fees for 30 days, and marketing support
  • UberEats - Free delivery, waived signup fees with fast tracked onboarding for restaurants new to the app
  • PostMates - Zero commission fees
  • Similar to government-issued war bonds- the Dining Bond Initiative seeks to bring in immediate cash in exchange for future restaurant purchases.  Diners can buy gift certificates sold at a 25% discount ($100 worth of food for a $75 bond) to be redeemed in the restaurant within the next month or two, depending on how individual restaurants decide to honor the bonds
  • This program is open to all restaurants
  • How it works
  • Establish a way to sell dining bonds through your website, by phone, or regular mail (the transaction will be directly between you and the customer)
  • Create a separate page on your website outlining your individual dining bond and terms and conditions.  This should outline
  • Where to purchase bonds/gift certificates
  • The amount of the bond at face value and the purchase price
  • The earliest date the bond can be redeemed
  • Fill out and submit the form (on the linked website) to appear on the list of participating restaurants
  • Setting up a takeout/delivery portion of your website: Fisherman
  • Fisherman is offering free website services and assistance in setting up takeout/delivery for any restaurant for the next 6 months.  
  • What to do: Fill out the attached form and they will reach out and begin managing and building a google presence
  • What’s included in the package? Web hosting, a custom domain, a modern mobile-optimized website, SSL security, and access to their website editor
  • If you use Square, you can develop an online store through their platform
  • Square is waiving curbside pickup and delivery fees for the next three months. Square Online Store already offers online orders for in-store pickup with no monthly fee.
  • Get listed on aggregate resources:
  • Gift Cards
  • Resources for Restaurants Feeding the Frontlines:
  • Feeding the Frontline - connecting restaurant to healthcare employees. In test mode, hoping to launch in a few weeks

Food Business-specific COVID-19 and crisis management resources

  • NRA COVID-19 Reopening Guidance. A summary guide from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) on re-opening after a COVID-19 closure.
  • Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide. An excellent rundown of common questions people might ask about Coronavirus and food, with concise, science-based answers. Put your customer’s fears to rest: they won’t catch Coronavirus from your food!
  • The City of Boston’s Support Boston Restaurants directory is intended to serve as a directory for residents to know which businesses are open. Businesses can verify they're open and share info on gift cards, delivery services, and more.
  • COVID-19 Learnings and resources (specific to real estate/restaurant/retail), aggregated by Graffito; here
  • Chicken and Rice Guys wrote about their experience and learnings from managing a crisis in 2017 when they had to close the restaurant for 8 days.
  • This webinar shared by the James Beard Association, which speaks to operations during a time of crisis.
  • The Boston Globe has launched Boston Globe Media's Small Business Community, a “group of business owners and executives convening through The Boston Globe to receive access to exclusive Boston Globe Media resources, including a small business Slack channel, access to Boston Globe editorial staff, and curated, relevant journalism.” Apply to join here.

Resources (financial and otherwise) to share with Staff

  • Grassroots movement and fund for service workers in Boston
  • Form to fill out to request funds can be seen here
  • Project Bread FoodSource hotline / assistance accessing SNAP benefits
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with food insecurity, Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline offers free, comprehensive statewide food assistance to all Massachusetts residents.
  • Help is offered in 160 languages and there is a line dedicated to helping those that are hearing impaired.
  • Irene from Mei Mei’s restaurant has been kind enough to offer people’s employees discounted groceries at wholesale prices
  • Link here 
  • Supporting workers in crisis - One Fair Wage → Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Worker Support Fund.  Provides cash assistance to restaurant workers, car service drivers, delivery workers, personal service workers and more who need the money they aren’t getting to survive
  • Restaurant Workers Community Foundation - COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund
  • Information about this is still being released, as it is being set up as we speak.
  • While they are setting it up, we will update, but anyone can email covidhelp@restaurantworkerscf.org 
  • Camberville Hospitality Workers Fund: Naomi Levy from Eastern Standard has put together a fund (based on donations) for hospitality workers, starting at Bow Market and then expanding to anyone that requests funds from there.  Link to request funds here
  • Grit HP is highlighting recipes and drinks from bartenders and chefs, for purchase by the public to support those restaurant workers. Visit their site here.
  • Growing list of Boston-area emergency relief funds from The Boston Foundation is here.

Cutting Costs

  • Negotiate rent: potentially start talking with your landlord about how you both can work together to weather an economic recession. It’s in their best interest to lower your rent and allow your business to survive through a down time so that you can thrive during more positive economic conditions.
  • Here is a slide deck from Graffio SP on best practices for talking to your landlord about COVID-19 impacts on your business.

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