More restaurants closed than usual last year but less than feared

A year ago, experts predicted that a third of American restaurants could close in 2020 due to the pandemic. Leader and activist Tom Colicchio said the death toll could reach 75%.

New data from the National Restaurant Association, a Washington-based industry group, has revealed that 90,000 restaurants across the United States have closed permanently or long-term. That’s less than 14% of restaurants in the country. That’s less than the 110,000 figure reported by the association in December, when Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Sean Kennedy described the industry’s status as “an economic free fall.”

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While this is still disastrous compared to the 50,000 restaurants that close in a typical year, the most dire scenarios have been avoided thanks to initiatives such as government loans like the Paycheck Protection Program and Modifications. local restrictions.

According to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the association, the places that have survived range from the most powerful places in New York City like Danny Meyer Union Square Cafe and the Balthazar Brewery to the popular London-style pub Cavalier. in San Francisco and the Michelin-starred tasting menu places Rooster and Owl in Washington.

“The restaurant industry is definitely on the path to revitalization,” Riehle said in a telephone interview. “The sales trend numbers are heading in the right direction and with the advent of warmer weather this bodes well for outdoor dining, which has been a lifeline for restaurant owners.” The group’s survey found that 44% of operators expected their average sales from April to June to be higher than in March 2021.

Highlighting the high volume of restaurant business in July and August, Riehle expects the positive trend to continue as dining and travel restrictions ease. “Historically, 1 in 4 sales dollars in the industry have come from travel and tourism,” he says. This summer “the leisure market will return, followed by business, then international tourism”.

Not all news is good for restaurants. Even though owners saw improvement, food and beverage sales for April 2021 were down $ 1.3 billion, or 2%, from sales of $ 66.2 billion in February 2020 before the start of the pandemic. The industry group’s monthly sales and employment reports estimate that, for the past 14 months, sales in the restaurant and foodservice industry are currently $ 290 billion below “predicted pre-pandemic levels.” “.

Plus, high-profile staff shortages could hamper business as dining rooms continue to fill up. Restaurants are currently down 1.7 million jobs. In New York City, where 5,000 of about 24,000 restaurants are closed, there are about 140,000 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, according to Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

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