Consolidated Edison Summer Service Outages

Comments of the New York City Hospitality Alliance

By NYC Hospitality Alliance

When restaurants and nightlife establishments lose power, it has a dramatic impact on their operations and finances.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance is a not-for-profit association representing restaurants and nightlife establishments that were impacted by Consolidated Edison’s Summer 2019 Service Outages.

When restaurants and nightlife establishments lose power, it has a dramatic impact on their operations and finances. Restaurants must stop cooking, and customers are unable to finish their meals. Since many of these businesses process a significant amount of revenue via credit card transaction, which they are often unable to do without electricity, they cannot accept payment from customers. In many cases, it wouldn’t be appropriate to charge anyway since people may not have finished their meals. This also results in some workers not earning tips and therefore losing out on income.

While the recent blackout did not last long enough to result in widespread food spoilage or situations that create foodborne illness concerns, if the outages lasted any longer, both could have been a serious concern from a financial and public health perspective.

A sudden loss of electricity can also cause a sudden panic among workers and customers because of heightened public safety and security concerns, which may be even more pronounced at nightlife establishments.

Because restaurant and nightlife venues are places where the public congregates, New Yorkers and visitors often ask them questions about why the power is down, when it’s expected to return, and other related questions. These businesses can also become hangouts where people come to drink, consume food before it spoils and commiserate about the outage.

While the utilities and regulators discuss ways to avoid future outages, we suggest the following measures are taken to help mitigate the consequences future outages may have on the city’s restaurant and nightlife industry:

1. Communications:

  • Enhance existing communications and develop new systems where information about the service outages can be transmitted to businesses in real time.

  • Because the public often asks the operators of restaurants and nightlife establishments about the outage, related Facebook, Instagram and Twitter images and posts can be created and given to these businesses for them to share on their social channels. These businesses often have large followings on these social media channels, so they can share important announcements with the public.

  • Workers are often confused about whether to report to work, transportation options available, and how their lives will be affected by the outage. Information related to these issues should be provided ASAP to employers, so they can better determine how to plan for the business interruption and inform employees as appropriate.

2. Financial Impact:

  • There should be a larger conversation about the process and how much lost money impacted businesses can recoup from utilities due to such outages.
  • Businesses should be educated about types of insurance coverage available to them should such an outage occur.

3. Safety:

  • Businesses should be educated about how to best manage security and safety related issues that may occur.

  • The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene should provide information to businesses on how to address food safety matters related to power outages.

4. Miscellaneous:

  • If the outage is expected to last for an extended period of time and a restaurant will likely have to dispose of its food, information about the city’s new Food Donation portal and other food rescue services should be provided.

In addition to the aforementioned recommendations, the City and utilities should develop a reference guide to inform restaurant and nightlife establishments about best practices for preparation, in the moment, and post power outage. This guide should also include different resources available to them. The New York City Hospitality Alliance is happy to discuss these issues further and work with all parties to address them. Of course, the main goal must be to prevent these outages from occurring again, as they can have serious safety, operational, and economic consequences for our city’s businesses and New York has a whole.

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