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Restaurant Roundup: Tesla Mulls Retro Diner; Lawmakers Look Ahead

Tesla may have plans to get into the restaurant business. The company filed three trademark applications that indicate its interest in the food service industry — one for the characters in its name, one for the spelled-out Tesla logo, and one for the “stylized ‘T’ design” also featured in the company’s logo. All three trademarks are filed under the category of “restaurant services, pop-up restaurant services, self-service restaurant services, take-out restaurant services.”

The trademarks were spotted earlier in the week (June 1) by electric vehicle news site Electrek, which also pointed out the link between these applications and a tweet Tesla Co-Founder and CEO Elon Musk made in 2018 that read, “Gonna put an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant at one of the new Tesla Supercharger locations in LA.”

Granted, Musk tweets so many things, with varying degrees of comprehensibility, that it is hard to be sure which public statements describe concrete intentions and which are merely ideas. Also in 2018, however, the company applied for a permit for restaurant with a supercharger station in Los Angeles.

This past April, he tweeted, “Major new Supercharger station coming to Santa Monica soon! Hoping to have 50’s diner & 100 best movie clips playing too.”

So get ready for a Tesla-branded drive-in movie theater with a mid-century-style diner, a retro-futuristic joint that may or may not include roller skates.

For Cocktails, To-Go To Stay In CA

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday (June 3) that allowances for to-go cocktails would remain in effect until 2022, AP reports, giving the state’s restaurants a chance to benefit from this additional revenue source as they attempt to rebuild from the devastation of the past 15 months.

“I’m very excited about this and I think this is a good thing for our economic recovery,” said Newsom. “It’s also a good thing for our public health, because what occurs is, more people will still be outside.”

Newsom made the announcement outside San Francisco restaurant and tequila bar Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant. Along with continuing to-go drinks, the Newsom administration has also extended allowances that permit restaurants to expand their outdoor dining to parking lots and sidewalks, while encouraging local legislatures to make similar allowances.

“Today’s actions by Governor Newsom are critical — as they contain some of the most successful elements of emergency pandemic relief — and makes them stick for the longer term as we know that expanded outdoor dining is essential for paving the way towards a restaurant recovery,” California Restaurant Association chief executive officer and president Jot Condie said in a statement following the announcement. “These actions will be incredibly valuable for so many neighborhood restaurants throughout the state.”

PPP Loan Applications Close Early

The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has closed three days ahead of schedule, The Wall Street Journal reports. Originally intended to close Monday, May 31, applications closed Friday, May 28. The Small Business Administration (SBA) informed lenders, “Due to the high volume of originations today, the portal will be closing for new originations.”

For small restaurants, this marks the end of a valuable resource necessary to carrying them through an extremely difficult period, despite the program’s mixed reputation within the industry. As Restaurant Business reports, the program benefitted over 450,000 restaurants and hotels, providing low-interest loans totaling over $84 billion to these businesses.

“I’ve heard story after story from small business owners across the country about how PPP funds helped them keep the lights on, pay their employees — and gave them hope,” SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement.

She went on to note, in response to widespread attention drawn early on to the fact that PPP loans often went to major restaurant chains with hundreds of millions at their disposal, “I’m proud of the work we did to begin to rectify these inequities — in 2021, 96% of PPP loans went to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize equity in all SBA’s programs and services.”

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Adds Another Virtual Brand To Its Kitchens

Two months after launching virtual brand Wing Boss, Dallas-based barbecue restaurant chain Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which operates around 460 brick-and-mortar locations across the U.S., has added a second delivery-only brand to its portfolio. The company announced the addition of the brand, Big Deal Burger, which serves burgers, sandwiches and side dishes, on Thursday (June 3).

The virtual brand’s menu items are similar to but distinct from those on Dickey’s name brand menu. The delivery-only restaurant is currently operating in 45 Dickey’s locations, with five more set to open throughout June. The company notes that, following the addition of the brand, “Dickey’s has tripled average weekly volume by store.” However, part of this sales growth may be coincidental, as the vaccine rollout has been driving restaurant sales across the board.

The release notes the company’s “growing virtual brand portfolio,” so it is likely we will continue to see additions of more virtual brands down the line, positioning Dickey’s toward the front of the pack in the virtual kitchen space.

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