Big chains like Shake Shack are reportedly some of the first NYC-based restaurants to receive funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — part of the first federal stimulus package — that seeks to help small restaurants pay their employees, utilities, rent and other expenses during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The burger chain received $10 million from the federal loan program on April 10, according to its Securities and Exchange Commission filing. And while Shake Shack reportedly has more than 6,000 employees across the country, it still qualifies for this small business loan because the PPP applies to companies that don’t hire more than 500 people in one location.
Shake Shack saw a 28.5 percent decline in sales in March 2020 compared to March 2019, according to the SEC filing. Prior to that, the burger chain — which has more than 280 locations in the U.S. and 95 international outposts — saw more than $570 million in sales in 2019, a 29 percent increase over the previous year.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which has a location in Midtown, was another big national chain that recently announced that it received $20 million through the PPP. Sandwich chain Potbelly has also received $10 million. The loan has a one percent interest rate, but that is forgiven if the funds go largely toward paying employees, one of the reason some small restaurants say they won’t really benefit from the program because of other large costs like rent.
While some small restaurants in the city have received the loan as well, private businesses do not have to announce finances, so the assistance has not been as public. And many other independent restaurants like East Village Taiwanese restaurant 886 and Crown Heights cafe Greedi Vegan are still reporting that their applications are pending.
Part of that reason could be that many restaurants in the city bank with some of the biggest firms like Chase and Bank of America, and those banks may take longer to disburse funds because of their massive client base. Some small businesses outside of New York — and one printing company in the Garment District — are having better luck with their loan because they all work with small banks.
As of Thursday, the PPP had already run out of its $350 billion in funds, less than two weeks after it was announced. Congress is looking to top off that fund with an additional $250 billion, but it’s not yet clear when that will happen. For many small restaurants in the city, there is continued uncertainty on whether they will receive the funds or if their applications will eventually get rejected as the funds dry up.
Loans offered by New York City — up to $75,000 for businesses with less than 100 workers — have also reportedly dried up. About 8,500 businesses have applied for the zero-interest loan. Only about 600 applications have been processed so far, and the city halted the application process less than two weeks after it started. The financial demand from small businesses in the city is reportedly at half a billion dollars, but the city only had $20 million to give out through the zero-interest loan program.