Mar 23, 2021

In a Year of Loss, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Supported Local Restaurants with Wins Large and Small

Wisconsin Restaurant Association logoWRA continues to fight for the resources needed to rebuild
in 2021 and beyond

One year into the pandemic, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association is celebrating the significant accomplishments both local and national that, in the face of enormous loss, supported the Wisconsin restaurant industry and built a foundation for rebuilding in 2021. The accomplishments of the last year have been both large and small, providing access to a myriad of resources that restaurants of all types have used to survive and on which they can continue to rely for recovery.

“Restaurants are the cornerstone of every community, which is why the pandemic’s damage has been so personally felt across Wisconsin,” said Kristine Hillmer, President & CEO. “We have been committed to standing next to local restaurants throughout this crisis. We worked closely with our partners at the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to advocate for relief programs. Our relentless efforts helped secure a variety of options for every Wisconsin restaurant.”

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association united the industry to be the voice of every restaurant in addressing their many needs at all levels of government. Together, they distributed training and operating guidance, communicated safety efforts to customers, and supported industry employees during the hardest days of the pandemic.


Conceiving the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is based on the Senate version of the RESTAURANTS Act and the original plan posed by the National Restaurant Association in March, 2020. This fund will help the hardest hit small and medium-sized restaurants kick-start their recovery. The WRA is committed to helping all eligible restaurant owners prepare to successfully apply for RRF grants.

Securing access to $72+ billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans
At a time when restaurants were most in need of capital, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association partnered with the National Restaurant Association to secure expanded access to forgivable loans on two occasions and to refine the program to meet the specific needs of restaurants.

Saving restaurants $15.7 billion with PPP deductibility
Restaurant operators who used their PPP loans to pay qualified expenses didn’t have to worry about surprise federal tax bills because the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association got this loophole fixed at both the federal and state levels.

Providing business liability protection
WRA worked to get state legislation passed to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits due to COVID-19 – one of the first states to do so.

Designing free COVID-19 ServSafe training modules
The safety experts from the Association’s ServSafe training program immediately stepped in to create much needed COVID-19 training. The free courses have been accessed more than 1.3 million times.

Establishing a $21.5 million Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation partnered with celebrity chef Guy Fieri to establish the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF), which provided grants to more than 43,000 restaurant employees.

Creating the first COVID-19 operating guidance and resources for all restaurants
The WRA, along with the Association’s ServSafe training teams, stepped up to provide restaurants of all sizes with pandemic operating best practices. The COVID Resources continues to be updated as new science-based information becomes available.

Increasing consumer confidence in on-premises dining with statewide and national TV campaigns
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association created the Ready to Serve Safely Campaign and partnered with the National Restaurant Association on consumer ad campaigns welcoming diners back to their favorite local restaurants, highlighting the health and safety practices operators and employees are implementing. 

Educating with the Ready to Serve Safely program 
Consumers in Wisconsin can look for the Ready to Serve Safely and/or ServSafe Dining Commitment logos to know that the restaurant is committed to the program’s health and safety best practices and adhering to operating guidance.

Expanding ERTC to support employment 
Employee Retention Tax Credits (ERTC) are key tax benefits used by many restaurants. Because of a change pursued by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association, restaurants can now receive up to $19,000 per eligible employee in ERTC across 2020 and 2021.

Securing We’re all In Grants
Helped secure $64 million in state funding for small and medium sized restaurants and bars. 

Ordering up cocktails to-go
The WRA is working to allow cocktails-to-go, securing this lifeline already allowed in 32 states and D.C. This proposal has passed the State Assembly and is currently being debated in the Senate. It will be one of the most significant changes to alcohol laws since Prohibition. 

“We’ve lost 110,000 restaurants nationwide to the pandemic so far, but the combined efforts of the innovative and hard-working restaurant owners and employees in every community, along with these many accomplishments, may have kept our losses from being far greater,” said Tom Bené, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “While we don’t expect the industry to fully recover this year, the National Restaurant Association and our state restaurant association partners will continue to aggressively pursue the necessary resources to rebuild the industry. Restaurants are an essential part of all our lives, and in the coming year we look forward to welcoming friends and families back to our tables.”

The latest information about how Wisconsin restaurants are rebuilding is updated regularly on


About the Wisconsin Restaurant Association
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is one of the largest trade associations in the state with over 7,000 member locations throughout Wisconsin.  The mission of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association is dedicated to the success of the Foodservice and Hospitality Industry.  The Association advocates on behalf of the restaurant industry, provides a voice for the restaurant industry to consumers and the media and provides access to information and services to help members better run their businesses.  WRA represents the entire foodservice industry which includes over 16,000 licensed food service establishments.

WRA membership includes a wide range of foodservice businesses representing virtually every size and style of restaurant in the state. Members include fine dining establishments, mom-and-pop supper clubs, small cafes, quick service restaurants, corporate chain restaurants, institutional food service operations, catering businesses and hotel and motel foodservice among others. 

About the National Restaurant Association
Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.6 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurantsFacebook and YouTube.