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Hospitality Minnesota Report: Let’s Work Together

Last year, as the Minnesota Restaurant Association, the Minnesota Lodging Association and the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association were exploring whether or not to merge, all kinds of issues were raised about how the sectors were too different from one another for it to work.

Then Paul Bugbee, owner of Bug-Bee Hive Resort in Paynesville, wrote this:

"We all share in the desire to serve and accommodate our fellow citizens – a will to add moments of escape, relaxation, enjoyment, adventure and solace to a world consumed with schedules, obligations, calamities and survival.

It behooves us to work together to provide better services and experiences for a disheveled public, to lighten their load or to allow them a chance to breathe and to know the finer aspects of living.

We define hospitality."

Paul had no way of knowing just how prescient his words were. None of us did.

Thank goodness we did merge, and just in the nick of time. It’s been a heavy lift these past three months, and we’ve needed the entire industry pulling in the same direction. Some businesses are doing better than was projected in March and others will never recover. We’ve experienced profound levels of stress and devastating loss. At the same time, we’ve witnessed remarkable ingenuity, resilience and the commitment to helping our communities. We have a better sense of our interdependence. These are the qualities we will need to keep turning to in the coming months as restaurants and foodservice operations, indeed the entire hospitality industry, rebuild to a new reality. 

From working to secure federal and state relief to advocating for allowing alcohol to go, and from helping to interpret funding programs and guidance to telling the story about the dire impact on our businesses, everyone has been working to make certain we can continue doing what we do best. 

For Hospitality Minnesota, the call to serve the industry brought the chance to forge stronger partnerships with other organizations. Deepening our work with the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Serving Those Serving allows us to bring a new energy and intensity to helping the businesses and individuals that make this industry a strong driver of Minnesota’s economy and quality of life. Together, we are all committed to doing everything we can to secure a safe and prosperous future.

Everyone hasn’t agreed on the precise way forward. While some have advocated for a longer, more restrictive road to reopening, we have not and remain positive about the way forward. As we fielded calls from businesses on the brink of collapse, we became more convinced that our industry had to be trusted to open safely, or we wouldn’t open at all. We have continued to advocate that our industry could help Minnesota secure the public’s health and foster economic recovery. We came to believe that hospitality businesses are uniquely positioned to help our fellow citizens, as Paul said, to find moments of solace in a world consumed by calamity and survival. And honestly, couldn’t we all use some solace right about now?

We know the pain remains real and the future for many businesses continues to be tenuous. Restaurant and foodservice operators responding to our recent survey on the economic impacts of this crisis tell us that nearly 78 percent of  their businesses are serving below or well below capacity, even while operating at reduced capacity. If these conditions persist, they told us, nearly 50 percent of their businesses will be shuttered within six months.

We are fully aware of the need for caution, diligence, constancy and patience. This virus isn’t going anywhere soon, and the coming months will test us all in ways we can’t imagine. Innovation will continue to emerge as we face new challenges. We’re grateful that the state is making an investment in talking directly to consumers about their responsibilities through a new ad campaign to be launched in August.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to provide advocacy, support and resources to help our important industry survive and ultimately thrive. We’ll continue to push to remain open and expand capacity. We’ll look for new opportunities for the support that businesses tell us is needed. We’ll push against efforts to assign liability where it isn’t warranted. And, we’ll work to anticipate the next wave of challenges that come as Minnesota heads back indoors in the fall.

It won’t be easy but, together, we’ll continue to define hospitality in Minnesota. 

Liz Rammer is the CEO/president of Hospitality MN.

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