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Guy Fieri says he's 'pissed' at politicians and explains why restaurant closings are 'only going to get worse'

Business Insider logo Business Insider 6/28/2021 (Jake Lahut)
Guy Fieri with his mouth open: Food Network star Guy Fieri. Steve Jennings/Getty Images © Steve Jennings/Getty Images Food Network star Guy Fieri. Steve Jennings/Getty Images
  • Food Network host Guy Fieri aired his frustrations with how Congress has handled restaurant relief.
  • Fieri said he's "pissed" that the airline industry got more direct funding.
  • In 2020, restaurants employed around 13 million people to just under 600,000 for airlines.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Restaurateur and Food Network star Guy Fieri unloaded on politicians and lobbyists in a new podcast interview.

The self-proclaimed Mayor of Flavortown has been raising money for struggling bars and restaurants throughout the pandemic, with the industry still down about 1.5 million jobs since March 2020.

Fieri, who recently inked a $80 million deal with the Food Network to make the "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" host the highest-paid TV food personality, spoke with veteran tech reporter and New York Times opinion columnist Kara Swisher on her podcast "Sway."

He argued bars and restaurants haven't gotten the same level of attention and support from Congress as the airline industry because they don't have the same lobbying firepower.

Before March 2020, restaurants employed more than 13 million people nationwide, whereas the airlines held a little under 600,000, according to the consumer data firm Statista. Airlines got an industry-specific $25 billion bailout by mid-March, while restaurants had to wait a year for a $28.6 billion allocation from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

"I mean, I'm pissed. It's because there's not enough unification," Fieri told Swisher. "We all love each other in the restaurant business ... But airlines have big, powerful money and attorneys and lobbyists. And we've got home-built restaurant companies that were passed down from a restaurant, that were passed down from generations, with not as much energy and power and unification."

Although Fieri initially told Swisher he needed to "bite my tongue a little bit," the interviewer renowned for her red chair and pointed questions got him to open up.

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"The only advocacies we really have working for us are our state associations, like California Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association," Fieri said.

"And I think it has to do with anything we see in government and politics and so forth," he later continued. "It's loud voice, power, and money."

Fieri outlined several of the same issues fellow food TV personality Jon Taffer described to Insider back in October 2020, when he interviewed then-President Donald Trump about how to save the restaurant industry after months of lockdowns and limited capacity.

After warning Swisher not to "get me riled up on this sh-t," Fieri explained where he thinks government is dropping the ball when it comes to struggling restaurants.

"I'd say you put regulations on everybody for everything," he said. "And forever, it's been impossible - especially in certain states, certain counties - impossible to get liquor delivered. When this all happened and things are blowing up and people are sinking, all of a sudden, people started figuring out, well, wait a second ... We can do this."

Fieri credited federal and state governments for swiftly lifting certain regulations during the pandemic, such as to-go cocktails, but questioned why that decisiveness hasn't gone further.

"But if we have the ability to move that quickly, let's continue," he said. "Take a second, please, and look at this group of people that are far more important than just putting food in your mouth ... I mean, this isn't just about food, you know?"

The Food Network host also compared the restaurant labor shortage and extended unemployment benefits to someone wanting Doritos over broccoli, arguing that payments need to be rolled back to get people back to work, though experts have cautioned against solely attributing the labor shortage to unemployment benefits.

"So for me, no, you can't sit on your ass and expect that it's going to come to you," he said, "because it's not."

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