100,000 Restaurants Have Closed in the Last 6 Months During the Pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left the restaurant industry starving, as an unprecedented number of business have been forced to cease operations.

In a nation with a craving for eating out, it paid to be in the restaurant business in early 2020. On March 11, the National Restaurant Association released its State of the Restaurant Industry report, predicting that industry sales would hit $899 billion this year — four percent more than last year — and stating that restaurants would thrive, “thanks to an expanding economy and positive consumer sentiment.”

But just days later, as the country started shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants quickly felt the gut punch.

Now, six months after the first shutdown, one in six restaurants — or a total of 100,000 establishments nationwide — have “closed either permanently or long-term,” according to a new survey the association released on Sept. 14.

Additionally, the findings show that nearly three million restaurant employees are unable to work, and that nationwide, the industry lost $165 billion from March through July and will have lost $240 billion in sales by the end of 2020.

“For an industry built on service and hospitality, the last six months have challenged the core understanding of our business,” National Restaurant Association president & CEO Tom Bené said in a statement. “Our survival for this comes down to the creativity and entrepreneurship of owners, operators, and employees. Across the board, from independent owners to multi-unit franchise operators, restaurants are losing money every month, and they continue to struggle to serve their communities and support their employees.”

On average, restaurant sales were down 34 percent in August, while 60 percent of operators have also had to spend more on the normal operating costs and are staffing only 71 percent of the employees they did before the pandemic. Additionally, 40 percent think it’s “unlikely” they’ll still be in business in six months, if there aren’t more relief packages.

Consumers are aware of how much restaurants are hurting. In a consumer survey released in August, also conducted by the association, 56 percent of American adults said they knew of a restaurant that closed permanently because of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, with 88 percent noting “restaurants are an important part of their community.”

Among the restaurants that have closed permanently are The Mermaid Inn, Bar Sardine, and 88 Lan Zou in New York City; Les Zygomates and the Cheers replica bar in Boston; 189 by Dominique Ansel and Bibo Ergo Sum in Los Angeles; Din Tai Fung’s original Arcadia location in California; Southern Pacific Brewing, Trou Normand, and Ton Kiang in San Francisco; Ronny’s Steakhouse and La Sardine in Chicago; and North by Northwest and Magnolia Cafe West in Austin.

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