The American restaurant apocalypse was less catastrophic than predicted, with fewer restaurants closing permanently and sales returning to near pre-pandemic levels last month.
New data from the National Restaurant Association shows that 14 percent of food and beverage outlets remain completely or permanently closed due to the pandemic.
This equates to about 90,000 of the country’s 660,000 restaurants, a significant contraction from the 110,000 that were still closed in December – though still far more than a typical year’s 50,000 closings.
It’s also a much less bleak death rate than predicted last summer when experts warned the US could wave goodbye to about a third – 231,000 – of all eateries.
Restaurants were hardest hit during the pandemic, as they were stuck for a long time in many major cities and were slow to re-enter.
In March, Joe Biden set aside $ 28.6 billion for small restaurants as part of his $ 1.9 trillion US bailout plan, providing subsidies for dining outlets across the country.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows restaurant and bar sales hit $ 65 billion in April – just $ 1.3 billion shy of February 2020’s $ 66.2 billion before COVID-19 devastated the industry
Last March, chef and activist Tom Colicchio warned that 75 percent of restaurants would not survive the pandemic, according to the Washington Post.
Restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates recounted Bloomberg News their estimate was that one in three would never return.
But the industry appears to be getting back on its feet with 20,000 restaurants on the verge of closing permanently in December and are now back up and running.
Restaurant and bar sales are also on the way to pre-pandemic levels, hitting nearly $ 65 billion in April, according to data from the US Census Bureau.
This is just $ 1.3 billion shy of the $ 66.2 billion in sales recorded in February 2020 – a month before the pandemic brought the industry and the country to a halt.
This is also an increase of about 3 percent and nearly $ 2 billion from the $ 63 billion in sales recorded in March.
Sales fell to its lowest level of just $ 29.9 billion last April, but has been increasing overall since then.
And restaurant owners expect that this will only get better, according to the association COVID-19 user research, which surveyed 2,500 restaurants from April 1 to April 14, 2021.
The poll found that 44 percent of operators expect their average sales from April to June to be higher than in March.
A bartender at Carmines Ybor Italian restaurant in Florida last June. New data from the National Restaurant Association shows 14 percent of food and beverage outlets remain completely closed permanently or for long periods due to the pandemic
Diners enjoy outdoor dining in California during the summer last year. Outdoor dining initiatives and government assistance helped absorb the blow to the industry
A disaster seems to have been avoided, thanks in part to the roll-out of outdoor dining initiatives and by the government.
The U.S. Paycheck Protection Program was set up by the federal government last year to help small businesses continue to pay their employees and bills.
Restaurants then received additional help from the Biden government in March when the Senate passed the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill, including $ 28.6 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Cities and states launched plans for alfresco dining, including New York’s Open Streets, which closed dozens of streets in the summer for alfresco dining in front of restaurants and bars.
It’s not all good news, though.
With about 50,000 restaurants closing across America in a typical year, the National Restaurant Association figures show that the pandemic still killed nearly double the usual number.
Profitability has also fallen from pre-pandemic levels and costs have gone up, the association said, and 65 percent said their total sales volume in March was lower than before COVID-19.
Restaurant sales are still down $ 290 billion from expected pre-pandemic levels and more than 1.7 million jobs are still being lost.
New Yorkers dine in Manhattan’s dining areas in April. Restaurants were among the hardest hit during the pandemic, shut down for a long time, and slowly began to return to indoor dining
New Yorkers enjoy a night out in Greenwich Village. There remains a shortage of personnel in the industry
The total workforce also remains well below the industry standard: 84 percent of restaurant operators say their current level has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
In New York City – known for its bar and restaurant scene – the industry was paralyzed by months of closures and curfews.
Restaurants had been closed for months, with indoor dining only reopening at 25 percent in September, before closing again in December.
They then reopened in February with limited capacity, increasing capacity and relaxing curfews.
About 5,000 of the city’s 24,000 restaurants remain closed, and there are about 140,000 fewer jobs, Bloomberg reports.
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research & Knowledge Group at the National Restaurant Association, said the findings paint a mixed picture of the industry’s recovery.
“We continue to see positive sales growth as consumer confidence increases,” said. Riehle.
In March, Joe Biden (showing Tuesday) set aside $ 28.6 billion for small restaurants as part of his $ 1.9 trillion US bailout plan, providing subsidies for dining outlets across the country.
“It is important to note, however, that 90 percent of operators say recruiting and retaining employees is likely to be more difficult after the pandemic is over than it was before it began.”
Riehle said staffing issues will, in turn, affect a restaurant’s ability to return to welcome guests at full capacity.
This greatly contributes to why more than half of full-service operators and 42% of surveyed operators with limited service are unable to open at the maximum allowed capacity and return their business. grow – they don’t have enough employees to man the restaurant, ‘he said.
Riehle told Bloomberg that July and August are likely to become the industry’s biggest months and should be further boosted when the nation welcomes tourists from currently banned countries – such as the UK and Europe – back to the US.