The number of restaurant casualties resulting from the pandemic may be far less than expected.
The National Restaurant Association found that 90,000 restaurants — approximately 14 percent of all eateries — across the U.S. have closed permanently or long-term, according to Bloomberg News. It was once predicted that one-third would shutter.
In a normal year, 50,000 restaurants close. That number rose during the pandemic, but initiatives such as the Paycheck Protection Program have limited the toll.
Although most restaurateurs have been able to stay afloat, many have seen diminished sales. In the past 14 months, sales are $290 billion lower than expected pre-pandemic levels.
However, for April 2021 they were down just 2 percent from the $66.2 billion in sales in February 2020, the last month before the pandemic.
“The restaurant industry is definitely on a revitalization path now,” Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the National Restaurant Association, told Bloomberg. “Sales numbers are trending in the correct direction, and with the advent of warm weather, it bodes well for outdoor dining, which has been a lifeline to restaurant operators.”
Indeed, with customers returning, the biggest problem eateries seem to face now is replenishing their staffs. Some workers moved on to other occupations during the pandemic. Lack of child care with schools remaining closed is also keeping people out of the workforce, as are unemployment benefits that meet or exceed what many Americans could make in restaurant jobs.
[Bloomberg] — Sasha Jones