TALLAHASSEE — Restaurants should offer employees paid sick leave up to 14 days and government officials should issue clear guidelines before reopening the economy, business owners told a Florida task force for reopening the state on Tuesday.
Those guidelines should answer basic questions, said Tim Petrillo, co-founder and CEO of The Restaurant People, which operates a chain of 45 restaurants in five states.
How do restaurants obey social distancing? What do they do about outdoor seating? Should employees and guests wear masks? Should they use disposable utensils and menus? And how are the rules enforced?
“The clearer direction we can give the industry, the better off we will be,” Petrillo said.
And paid sick leave for up to 14 days for employees with COVID-19 symptoms should be offered to prevent them from feeling pressured to go to work, said José Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King, Popeye’s and Tim Horton’s restaurants.
Hourly employees typically don’t have paid sick leave, but Restaurant Brands offered it to its employees and encouraged its franchise owners to do so as well, he said.
“Ultimately, the issue we need to address when we open up is we need to have certainty that our restaurants are a safe place to go for our team members as well as our guests,” Cil said.
The task force of more than 30 business owners, executives and state officials does not include any doctors or public health officials. It was led by Dana Young, the CEO of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm.
The restaurant and hotel industries have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, and the key to reopening is making sure their businesses are safe — and that employees and the public believes they’re safe, they said.
“Consumer confidence is going to be at the root of everybody getting more comfortable going out,” said Rick Sasso, president and CEO of Switzerland-based MSC Cruises.
Sasso suggested requiring the news media run state-sponsored public service announcements to reassure the public.
Young said Visit Florida is planning a marketing campaign as soon when Gov. Ron DeSantis lifts his stay-at-home order. The campaign will try to appeal to Floridians’ “state patriotism” by vacationing in the state.
The phase after that will try to appeal to out-of-state and overseas travelers. She said parts of Visit Florida’s website are seeing 11 times the traffic that it saw during the state’s most recent disaster, 2019′s Hurricane Dorian.
“This tells us that people want to know if it’s safe to travel to Florida,” she said.
Small businesses also need additional financial help to weather the crisis and return to business, said Walter Carpenter, chairman, NFIB Florida Leadership Council
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More than 75 percent of the businesses polled by the organization have applied for the federal paycheck protection program loans, which help companies keep employees on the payroll, Carpenter said. But only 20 percent of those that applied have seen any money.
“I don’t think, in reality, the PP loans are going to be what is going to help small business survive,” he said.
Another executive, Cody Khan, who manages multiple Holiday Inn hotels near Panama City said businesses need a more permanent financial help.
Khan said sensational media reports hurt business, much like they did following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 10 years ago.
“Somehow we’ve got to communicate with our potential guests and our feeder markets in a way that they get the accurate information," Khan said.
Below are the members of the Re-Open Task Force Industry Working Group:
- Dana Young, President & CEO, VISIT FLORIDA
- Halsey Beshears, Secretary, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
- Kevin Thibault, Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation
- Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville
- Mayor David Kerner, Palm Beach County
- Sheldon Suga, Chairman, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
- Blake Casper, CEO, Caspers Company
- Amy Schwartz, Owner, Bella Bella Restaurant
- Collier Merrill, President, Merrill Land Company
- Philip Goldfarb, President & COO, Fontainebleau Miami Beach
- John Tolbert, President & Managing Director, Boca Resort and Club
- José Cil, CEO, Restaurant Brands International
- Josh D'Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
- John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
- Tim Petrillo, Co-Founder & CEO, The Restaurant People
- Dev Motwani, President & CEO, Merrimac Ventures
- Chad Harrod, CEO, Harrod Properties, Inc.
- Walter Carpenter, Chairman, NFIB Florida Leadership Council
- Len Brown, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer, PGA Tour, Inc
- Gary Lester, Vice President, The Villages for Community Relations
- Glen Gilzean, President & CEO, Central Florida Urban League
- Max Alvarez, President, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, Inc.
- Tom Crowley, CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation
- Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport
- Ted Christie III, President & CEO, Spirit Airlines
- Rick Sasso, President & CEO, MSC Cruises
- Maury Gallagher Jr., Chairman & CEO, Allegiant Air
- AJ de Moya, Vice President & General Manager, The de Moya Group, Inc.
- Paul Anderson, CEO, Port Tampa Bay
- Ken Stiles, CEO, Stiles Corporation
- Bob Flowers, President, C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.
- Rob Kornahrens, President & CEO, Advanced Roofing and Green Technlogies
- Monesia Brown, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Walmart
- Cody Khan, Owner, Holiday Inn Resort
- Matthew Caldwell, President & CEO, Florida Panthers Hockey Club
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