Most of you are aware that NDFU and 200 members of Agraria have ownership in seven restaurants in the D.C. and Philadelphia area. As you can imagine, our restaurants are dealing with the same challenges restaurants across the nation are facing with COVID-19. Our restaurants have been a great asset to our organization, so I feel the need to give you the latest update.

We have several major items “up in the air” yet, related to government programs such as PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) and RRF (Restaurant Revitalization Fund). We hope to have clarity soon on these funds, uses, and Small Business Administration interpretations, so we can make decisions related to full operations and next steps.

The good news, we are stable and performing as well or better than expected. Although we have begun to open for indoor dining, there continues to be rapid change with COVID-related restrictions. Forecasting when we get back to “normal” is hard to say. Utilizing outdoor dining, curbside pickup, food delivery and grocery sales, we were able to maintain operations through the pandemic.

Our major focus now is quality of operations as we stabilize and emerge from the challenges of the past 14 months. We need to solidify our staffing (everything you read in the paper or hear on the radio about the challenges with getting workers is real), we need to get back to operating without COVID restrictions, and we need to continue to find ways to support our staff and bolster morale.

While much of the dining public may have COVID in their rearview mirror as each week passes, restaurant workers still deal with it directly and indirectly every day. We love having diners back, doing more and more of our own meetings and collaborations in person, and doing what we love most, which is operating and leading complex, awesome restaurants.

Working with NDFU and North Dakota Farmers Union Service Association, we’ve completed a debt restructure with Eagle Bank, which is highly beneficial for all stakeholders. We are also evaluating each individual restaurant, looking at ways to strengthen the company, short- and long-term. We are confident all seven restaurants will survive. Our focus has now shifted to profitability, rather than “survivability.”

Development opportunities abound, including diverse sales channels and new potential locations. By balancing short-term challenges of cash flow positivity in all seven locations and rebuilding our workforce, we will get back to capturing revenue and executing our business plan.

With our truck delivering food to our restaurants, we are creating opportunities for food to be delivered from our restaurants to North Dakota. Check out available products at Some food items are being shipped to limited parts of the state, which we’d like to expand. You can also have some items shipped directly to you. Enjoy!

— NDFU President Mark Watne