Restaurant Revitalization Fund: Before You Apply, Read This

By now, you’re probably well aware that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has been passed. The Act created a $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) — which most are viewing as a huge win for the hospitality industry.

Of course, like any piece of legislation, the RRF comes with a lot of fine print. So we partnered with CohnReznick to answer your top questions, clear up misconceptions, and help you prepare.

Not sure if you qualify? Or what you’re entitled to? Or how is this different from the PPP? We cover it all in our Q&A below. Read on!

(Please keep in mind: this does not take the place of legal or accounting advice!)

Restaurant Revitalization Fund:

The highlights

  • $28.6 billion in funding for restaurant relief signed into law on March 11, 2021
  • Administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • Eligible entities can receive a tax-free grant of up to $10 million total, with a cap of $5 million per location
  • The amount of the grant must not exceed the “pandemic-related” revenue loss

We interviewed Stephanie O’Rourk, CPA and partner at CohnReznick, to get the lowdown on the RRF. Stephanie leads the firm’s National Hospitality Emerging Concepts and Operational and Financial Consulting Divisions. 

A lot of restaurants are pretty familiar with the PPP at this point. How is the RRF different?

There are some similarities between the PPP and the RRF, especially when it comes to tax treatment and permissible utilization of funds.

But the biggest differential between the two— and this is considered a huge win for the industry — is that while the PPP is distributing loans, the RRF is distributing tax-free grants. That means you have nothing to pay back, you won’t owe any taxes on the amount you receive, and (another bonus), as long as you follow the RRF guidelines, everything you use the grant funds for is tax deductible. 

Other things to note with the RRF:

  • A longer covered period to utilize the funds
  • No specified percentages as it pertains to how much of the funds need to be utilized for eligible payroll expenses 
  • No complex loan forgiveness process to deal with, which means there’s more flexibility for restaurant operators to utilize the funds in a manner that makes the most business sense for their day-to-day operations and  individual situations.

Can you give us a quick rundown of who actually qualifies for a grant?

Restaurants, food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, saloon, inns, taverns, bars, lounges, brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms, licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products, or other similar places of businesses in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink; including an entity located in an airport terminal or that is a Tribally-owned business. 

Who doesn’t qualify?

  • If you are a group of affiliated entities with more than 20 locations, you aren’t eligible for this grant. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing business under the same or multiple names. 
  • State and government operated entities
  • Publicly traded entitites
  • Any entities with pending or approved grants under the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

How do you define a group of affiliated entities?

The Act defines an affiliated business as a business in which: “an eligible entity has an equity or right to profit distributions of not less than 50%,” or “an eligible entity has the contractual authority to control the direction of the business.”

How do franchisees fit into this?

Franchisees of chain restaurants are eligible, but the “not more than 20-location” rule still applies for affiliated groups. 

Let’s say you own 5 Applebee’s locations, 7 Jimmy John’s locations, and 9 Denny’s locations. The SBA is looking at all of those combined, so you would exceed the 20-location rule and none of your affiliated restaurants would be eligible for the grant.

How do I determine how much I’m entitled to?

The legislation states that the amount of the grant must not exceed the “pandemic-related” revenue loss. For businesses in operation for all of 2019, the pandemic-related revenue loss is calculated by subtracting your 2020 gross receipts from your 2019 gross receipts. 

But we’re seeing a lot of misinformation out there, largely because of the PPP. The new legislation also states that the pandemic-related revenue loss amount you’re entitled to will be reduced by any PPP loans that you received (both 1st and 2nd draw amounts) — until further guidance is released by the SBA operators should assume the total amount received regardless of whether you have repaid a portion or all  of your loan. As an example:

  • Let’s say you did the math and determined that your pandemic-related revenue loss was $30 million. 
  • At some point, you received a PPP loan for $10 million.
  • And as of December 27, 2020, you’ve returned $5 million of that PPP loan.

The SBA is saying your pandemic-related revenue loss is going to be $20 million — not $30 million, and not $25 million, making you eligible for a potential $10 million for an affiliated restaurant group, and $5 million if you operate one physical location.

We could receive more specific guidance around this in the coming weeks. But for now, the Bill states the total amount of PPP loans received must be subtracted.

With that in mind, how should restaurants be handling their PPP loans?

Restaurants have until March 31, 2021, to draw or re-apply for the PPP. Businesses that were previously approved for a PPP loan but decided to return a portion or the full amount of their PPP loan proceeds should consider whether to re-apply for their originally approved maximum loan amount.

What if a restaurant opened in mid-2019, or at some point in 2020? How do they calculate their loss?

  • For entities not open for the entirety of 2019, average monthly receipts multiplied by 12 may be used for both 2019 and 2020.
  • If the entity opened during the period beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, and ending on the day before the date of enactment, the grant is calculated by taking the entity’s eligible payroll costs incurred by the entity and subtracting any gross receipts received.
  • For an entity that is not yet open at the date of application, the grant is the amount of eligible payroll costs incurred

It’s worth noting that SBA reserves the right to implement an alternate formula for any of the above-mentioned scenarios.

What can I use the grant for?

It’s pretty well defined and very similar to the PPP. Payroll costs, principle and interest payments on mortgage obligations, rent, utilities, maintenance expenses (including construction to accommodate outdoor seating as well as walls, floors , deck surfaces and FF&E), supplies (including PPE and cleaning supplies), normal food and beverage inventory expenses, paid sick leave and any other expenses the SBA determines to be essential to maintaining an eligible entity..

You cannot use the funds for business expansion purposes as this is not deemed a permissible usage of the funds. And you’ll need to be prepared to make the same good faith certification that PPP borrowers made — i.e., current economic conditions makes necessary the grant request to support the ongoing operations of the eligible entity.

Transparency is key. We expect the SBA will reserve the right to audit businesses to ensure the grant was properly used, so excellent record keeping is important. 

If a recipient of the grant does not use all grant funds or permanently ceases operations on or before the last day of the Covered Period (defined as beginning Feb. 12, 2020, and ending Dec. 31, 2021, or an alternative date to be determined by the SBA that is not later than two years after the date of enactment) any remaining funds must be returned to the Treasury. 

What’s the timeline like, and who gets priority? (Translation: When will I see the money?)

The SBA has 60 days from the date of enactment to formulate the rules and regulations of the program, and then applications open up. 

When that happens, you’ve probably heard that the first $5 billion has been earmarked for businesses with not more than $500,000 of 2019 gross receipts. Further, for the first 21 days, all grants will be prioritized for small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, or other socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Beyond that, one can not automatically assume it will be based on a first come first served basis; it’s possible that the SBA could issue additional guidance. If the current PPP round is any indication, there’s going to be a heavy focus on helping out Main Street America — those operators who really don’t have access to capital or other financial resources. Average PPP loan sizes in this last go around are hovering under $70,000, so it will be interesting to see if they prioritize the smaller grants here too, before getting to those larger ones.

So, it seems like restaurants are in a holding pattern. Is there anything they can do to prepare while they wait for applications to open up?

It’s definitely a good idea to have everything locked and loaded. There are a few things you might consider doing:

  • Gather the right financial information. For example, financial statements and tax returns for 2019 and/or 2020. If you’re a smaller operator and you don’t have sophisticated recordkeeping, you may be able to show documentation like bank statements and deposits, which were allowed on the second draw PPP loans.
  • Get a DUNS number. The Shuttered Venues Operator program required applicants to have an active registration in the U.S. government’s System for Award Management (SAM). To do that, you’ll need a DUNS number. You can learn more about the process here: [link]

What’s the general consensus about the RRF? Do we think it will truly move the needle in terms of recovery for the industry? 

This is a long-awaited program and has been requested by many groups that advocate for the industry, including the National Restaurant Association, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, and various State Restaurant Associations.

Again, the fact that it’s a grant, not a loan, is a tremendous win — and being that the grant is not deemed to be taxable income to the recipients and permissible expenses are tax deductible makes this program that much sweeter for the industry.

Do I think it’s going to go fast? Yes, I do. While $28.6 billion appears to be a lot of money, there are numerous businesses that continue to be in economic distress and are hungry for a program such as this one. Hopefully this fund will give these businesses the support they need to make it through the next 6, 9, 12 months — until our country gets back to some semblance of a new normal.

About CohnReznick

As a leading advisory, assurance, and tax firm, CohnReznick helps forward-thinking organizations achieve their vision by optimizing performance, maximizing value, and managing risk. Clients benefit from the right team with the right capabilities; proven processes customized to their individual needs; and leaders with vital industry knowledge and relationships.

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We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!