Last week the United States’ Congress passed a $2.2 trillion dollar stimulus bill in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has ground the economy to a halt. In the last two weeks ten million people have filed for unemployment. Businesses have shuttered.
However, there are areas of society that are still operating. During these times there are, what are considered, essential services: hospitals, grocery stores, and take-out and delivery food providers, like Taco Bell.
As a landlord with boots on the ground we are extremely concerned. We understand and are here for our small tenants who are struggling as they find themselves unable to pay rent. What concerns us is that we are seeing signs of corporate America taking advantage of the situation we are in right now. A Taco Bell in one of our shopping centers recently informed us they would not pay rent for three months.
While dine-in restaurants and bars are unable to make money because of the shutdown, drive-through restaurants continue to thrive and might even benefit from the current reality. This makes Taco Bell’s recent decision about rent payments even more troubling. While the government is sending out two trillion dollars to keep industries and individuals afloat, companies like Taco Bell are playing all sides.
Recently the fast food giant launched a campaign through its Taco Bell foundation to donate $1 million dollars to No Kid Hungry. We support this kind of thinking and believe successful companies should always give back. In fact, our real estate firm gives back to our community as often as possible.
As Taco Bell gives away 1 million tacos throughout their 7,120 locations — equating to 150 tacos per location and costing each one approximately $200, they want to look like generous heroes while simultaneously demanding a 90-day rent abatement from what we assume are all their Landlords. That just doesn’t work. They avoid paying on average what amounts to $15,000 for three months of rent to small landlords. Given the 7,120 locations, Taco Bell is demanding an approximate $106,800,000 windfall in rental abatements, all under the guise of charity. Seriously? Perhaps Taco Bell should give some credit to landlords for their free taco giveaway.
There are multitudes of people and small businesses dead in the water. When there are essential businesses with deep pockets like Taco Bell generating cash flow, and savings, they should not be holding anyone hostage. Landlords still have to pay mortgages and currently, many landlords are having to compensate for their loss of small business revenue as they falter.
Taco Bell has access to a portion of the $500 billion dollar stimulus package and are a multi-billion dollar corporation that is still generating revenues. Again, Taco Bell is playing all sides.
The landlords are vulnerable during this time due to the majority of their shops, consisting mainly of small businesses who can’t survive (being forced to close or losing business), this shutdown and don’t qualify for much in stimulus. Stores like Taco Bell can stabilize a shopping center by doing the right thing and paying their rent, while allowing the Landlord to work with Tenants who are most vulnerable, truly in need and are not able to open for business.
At a time when Americans are asked to come together Taco Bell is taking advantage. We will not forget those in corporate America who were opportunistic, especially those that are open and generating cash flow while exploiting the rest of the world during a crisis. We must put in place laws and repercussions for those companies that behave in this manner.
As a Landlord, I will agree to the ninety-day abatement on the sole condition: that when this pandemic passes, you, Taco Bell, give the entire approximate $106,800,000 to the hungry kids; not just a million dollars for press.