Ruth’s Chris Steak House parent Ruth’s Hospitality Group is coming under scrutiny for the size of the loan it got through the government’s small-business aid program. It was able to qualify for $20 million under a provision that allowed it to seek loans for each of two subsidiaries. At least two other restaurant chains took advantage of that provision, public filings and interviews show. Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chão also got $20 million, and casual-dining company J. Alexander’s Holdings received $15.1 million.
There aren’t any indications the loans were improper. But the amounts being provided to these and other big restaurant companies—with collectively thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue—have started to draw the attention of some Democratic lawmakers at a time when funding for the aid program has run out.
Ruth’s said that it sought the forgivable $20 million loan to ensure the company “is well positioned to emerge from this situation a strong and viable entity.” Fogo de Chão CEO Barry McGowan said, “The scale of our business doesn’t matter. All of our restaurants count.” J. Alexander’s Holdings executives didn’t respond to requests for comment.