New York’s Restaurant Comeback: Bringing New Yorkers Back to the Table

New York’s Restaurant Comeback: Bringing New Yorkers Back to the Table with Tom Colicchio and Andrew Rigie from Capalino

Written by Wendy Gerber, Chief Content Strategist, Capalino

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the restaurant industry in New York and across the country and its revival is a critical part of New York City’s economic recovery. Local restaurants and bars are a key component of the City’s tourism industry, which is our economic engine, as well as the heart of our communities. Business leaders are trying to devise plans to revive the hospitality sector that employs over 16 million people and provides ladders of opportunity to women, people of color, single mothers, immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated. The good news is restaurants can now accept up to 75% capacity and New York has created a “café culture” with new ways to dine outdoors. The comeback we envisioned is finally in our sights. 

Tom Colicchio and Andrew Rigie Share Insights

Capalino recently partnered with Tom Colicchio, celebrity chef, chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality, “Citizen Chef” and food policy activist, and Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, on an important program highlighting New York’s restaurant comeback as part of Capalino’s “The Future of New York” program series.  

Travis Terry, President of Capalino, noted that “Bringing New Yorkers and tourists back to the table at restaurants across the five boroughs of New York City is critical to New York’s recovery.”

Colicchio, who was a critical advocate for passage of the $28.6 billion federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund as a founder of The Independent Restaurant Coalition’s (IRC), a grassroots movement of chefs and restaurateurs working to save independent restaurants from the blow of the pandemic noted, “We’re starting to see more traffic, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Capalino is working with business owners to rebound from the pandemic and drive strategic growth, including helping businesses and restaurants leverage the NY State budget’s $800 million funding for small business and the $28.6 billion federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund administered through the Small Business Association. The application process just opened on May 3rd and businesses are advised to file applications quickly before funding is depleted. Many restaurants and small businesses will be eligible for these new programs that could act as an economic lifeline for establishments still navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Colicchio and Rigie hailed the bill’s passage as a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. “This relief fund gives hope to the entire independent restaurant and bar community. It is critical to save independent restaurants from the crushing blow of the pandemic,” said Colicchio. “When we return to normal, we need restaurants to make us feel connected and part of the community. But the bad news is the money will run out. We need additional funding—we had initially asked for $120 billion in funding.”

Restaurants are the Core of New York’s Recovery

During the Future of New York discussion, Rigie emphasized: “For New York City to recover, our restaurants and nightlife need to be at the core of recovery, not just as the economic foundation, but also the social fabric. Eating, drinking and socializing is part of the DNA of our society and culture.” Rigie also advocated that New York State allow temporary liquor licenses to aid new restaurants and bars seeking to open their doors. He added, “Here we are with thousands of closed restaurants and storefronts, but it will take four to six months for someone interested in opening a restaurant to get a liquor license under the current system.”

Terry, Colicchio and Rigie also spoke about positive developments. Colicchio said, “If we continue to vaccinate people in the US and taking a lead in vaccinating the world, I believe September is going to be insanely busy.” Colicchio also spoke about positive developments from the pandemic, saying “I want to see outdoor dining continue and closing streets. I hope that’s here to stay.”

Capalino’s New Hospitality Advisory Team

Capalino is also launching a new Hospitality Advisory Team to help restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality sector leverage these funding opportunities and rebound from the pandemic. This team will leverage Capalino’s ability to serve as a “one-stop shop” with services including strategy, real estate, permitting, financing, and lobbying to help restaurants and other businesses strategically plan their recovery. Capalino has a long history of partnering with the hospitality and restaurant sector to help well-known operations such as Ian Schrager Hotels, the Gramercy Park Hotel, Chatwal Hotels, the Four Seasons Restaurant, Knickerbocker Hotel, the River Café and Union Square Hospitality Group.

The Outer Boroughs

Terry, Colicchio and Rigie discussed the need for tourists as well as lifelong New Yorkers to explore the city and visit restaurants in boroughs outside Manhattan. “People aren’t just going to eat in those communities. They’ll walk around and make purchases, creating economic opportunities for other stores in the area,” said Rigie. Colicchio added that he is trying to get “Top Chef” to shoot in New York’s outer boroughs.

Social Equity and Food Access

In addition to discussing the restaurant comeback, Colicchio and Rigie addressed important issues focused on social equity and food access. Terry noted that approximately 1.4 million New Yorkers rely on soup kitchens and food pantries.  They shared the tremendous job restaurants did helping those in need during the pandemic and urged passage of the FEED Act currently before Congress to develop a better infrastructure so restaurants can spring into action and play a vital role in communities without the need to engage FEMA.

Colicchio has been a strong advocate for smart policies and funding to provide healthy food access to all. Both Colicchio and Rigie recommended that whoever is elected Mayor should focus on providing access to nutritious food as a critical issue to promote health. Colicchio also advocated development of a White House Conference on Hunger, which he noted hasn’t been held since President Nixon was in office.

“We are the wealthiest country and have so much excess food. We spend $50 billion a year on health care costs due to poor diet,” said Colicchio. “Children can’t achieve their potential if they’re not fed. It’s a fixable problem—it’s just going to take money and political will.”


As Broadway reopens in September and tourists return to the Big Apple, the restaurant comeback is just around the corner. Referencing Winston Churchill’s famous quote “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, Rigie predicts “Outdoor dining and open streets create a more vibrant, energetic city. It brings people together and unites them. Things like that are here to stay. It makes New York City better.”

To learn more about Capalino’s Hospitality Advisory Group or how we can help you achieve inclusive growth, contact Travis Terry, President of Capalino, at

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