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Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Proof is a resource center, incubator, and accelerator program for Chattanooga's food and beverage community focused on growing, supporting, and diversifying our local scene. We hope to serve you in both the short and long term as we all adjust with creativity and innovation amidst uncertainty. 

Dear Food & Beverage Colleagues, With each passing day, we are getting more details on the timeline recommendations, actual numbers on the economic fallout, and data on the true scope and impact of this evolving public health crisis on our nation and our industry. Whether you’ve been on high alert since January or early March, there’s now no question that all of us are confronting a severe disruption to our existing business models. Unfortunately what we all hoped would be a weeks-long shut down is extending and becoming more challenging as the weeks turn into months. With little end to the uncertainty insight, it is important as owners and industry leaders that we shift our energy and focus to developing strategic long term plans for our companies. What does this mean? We’ve all reacted and adjusted in different ways. Some of you have pivoted to provide provisions to-go, while others have made the tough decision to close your doors for now. To best prepare for what lies ahead, we are encouraging all of you to consider how best to protect your business and plan for your reopening when the time comes. As some of you know, we’re industry veterans who have taught a Consumer Goods Accelerator program through our partner Co.Lab for the last two years. When we decided to expand the program into Proof this past fall we had no idea how the needs of our community would evolve. Our team is working hard to sift through the relevant information and provide you with the best tools available which you'll see at the end of this newsletter. That said, we aren't lawyers, doctors, or accountants so you know...take this with a grain of salt. All the best from our crew to yours, Michael Robinson, Mia Littlejohn, Toby Darling, and Kaleena Goldsworthy


Here are some things to think about right now: 1. Stop the busy work, endless scrolling, and secure capital immediately...ASAP! Pull an all nighter if you have to...just get it done!

Complete the SBA disaster relief loan application ASAP. Use this guide to find out what information and documents you’ll need to gather before you sit down to do the application. Once you have the necessary documents gathered, the application only takes about 30 minutes to complete.

  • We strongly recommend you request the up to $10K* cash advance (*amount based on the number of employees you have) as it is our understanding this will convert to a forgivable loan and is the fastest way to infuse your bank account with some resources. These funds are limited and will likely run out. Fill out the application here.

Coordinate with your bank or local SBA office to complete and submit for the Payroll Protection Plan. (Sample Form Here.) If you don’t know, here’s a tool for finding a lender.

Ask your bank for an immediate Line of Credit or expansion of a line of credit(To see what your bank is doing / offering during this pandemic, please visit this site).

Stay up to date with the City of Chattanooga’s COVID-19 Small Business Stabilization Fund (The target date to open applications is April 14th.  In the meantime, you can request more information and express interest here).

Share the funds and resources available for your team of current or former employees. We rounded them up in a blogpost under RESOURCES on our website ( here.

This is a great step-by-step guide for small businesses navigating the financial tools available from the law firm of Autumn Witt Boyd HERE.

Here is a helpful list of some of the documents you should prepare if you are seeking funding from any sources, especially the stimulus package.

2. Reduce overhead and reserve cash-on-hand.

Furlough any remaining staff that is non-essential, unemployment is now $600 a month providing an actual livable wage.

Apply for unemployment yourself. Sole-proprietorship and self-employed owners will qualify to apply as of April 10th.

Coordinate with your landlord or mortgage lender to defer payments and reserve your cash. Here’s a helpful article about what to consider and review as you prepare for this conversation. And another one about how to talk to your landlord. The James Beard Foundation is hosting a free webinar specifically about options for restaurants seeking rent abatement on Monday. Register HERE

Suspend all monthly recurring expenses including but not limited to linen services, trash, POS, pest control, music subscriptions etc.

Prioritize your vendors: negotiate credit terms or payment plans with large vendors and prioritize small vendors that need cash to stay afloat.

If you're not profiting from to-go or curbside programs, shut down those programs and focus your energy and efforts on planning your re-opening.

3. Develop a Strategy and communicate it with customers and staff!

We’ve written a blogpost about revising your website to communicate updates on your evolving business model:

Start revising forecasting for 2020 budgets: expect to be down at least 25% and to deal with a seasonal re-emergence of the Coronavirus so plan mitigation strategies, adjust your capital needs, and discuss with partners. 

Invest time into re-training your staff and continued education for them: - Communicate your strategy and plan

- Host weekly zoom calls to provide updates and answer questions

- Consider reviewing your menu and developing a new menu that keeps your food costs low and margins higher, consider what you can accomplish with a reduced staff and streamlined operation, test additional concepts and follow trends and conversations across the industry

Explore continued education opportunities for Food Professionals: Webinars from the James Beard Foundation (also mentioned above)

BarSmarts is offering their online courses free of charge through April - 30th with the code TRYBARSMARTS!

- Coursera (which offers college courses online for free) has an excellent Food & Beverage Management Class that you may consider taking if you want to learn more best practices

4. Plan for new normal

Be ready to adjust to a limited supply chain when you reopen. Limit your menu’s offerings to those with the best margins and popularity.

Plan a new layout that allows folks to socially distance in small groups-consider reducing seating to create more space between tables, retrain your staff to respect and assuage customer’s nervousness about exposure,

Improve sanitation protocols by reviewing or implementing: - Food safety inspection checklists

- Food holding temperature logs

- Update Food safety procedures for front and back of house, opening and closing

- Foodsafety checklists for kitchen

- Daily cleaning checklists for entrance, bathrooms, all surfaces

- Food safety audit checklist

- Invest in Wirelesss temperature proves

Here's a helpful article about 5 essential tips for effective Food Safety

Put your new and improved systems on display so your customers see your efforts. Post your policies plainly for your clientele to read on your website. Train your staff to answer seriously and confidently about cleaning and protocols.

Plan for the Coronavirus to be seasonal: hopefully we all look back at this list and laugh at our overreaction, but in the event a vaccine isn't developed we can expect social distancing and outbreaks to come and go like the Flu season.

P.S. We can't sign off without giving a huge THANK YOU  the wonderful industry partners who have helped us provide nearly 300 boxes of food at no cost to our out of work hospitality colleagues over the last several weeks. Here are some of the folks who made it happen: Coca Cola Bottling Chattanooga, Brewski, Naked River, PFG Performance food group, Moonpie, What Chefs Want, Double Cola, Brewski Brewing, Little Debbie, What Chefs Want, PFG, Pilgrims Pride, Chattanooga Spice Trails Pop Ups, Bluewing Gardens, Advintage Distributing, Alleia, Mad Priest Coffee, and BODE Chattanooga. Y'all are awesome! We will get through this together. P.P.S. If you haven't already followed us on social media check us out on Instagram for ongoing updates related to resources we are finding that may be helpful to you @Proof_Bar_Incubator and make sure to look for our posts at our new blog under the RESOURCES tab on our website. 


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