About 90,000 eating and drinking place establishments remain completely closed either permanently or long-term, findings from the National Restaurant Association’s most recent COVID-19 operator survey revealed. The survey, which identifies the latest trends and key economic indicators influencing the speed of the restaurant industry’s recovery, polled 2,500 restaurant operators from April 1 to April 14, 2021.
Despite the recent gains, the survey showed overall staffing levels remain well below the industry standard, with 84% of operators saying their current staffing level is lower than it was in the absence of COVID-19.
A vast majority of restaurant operators reported that profitability is down from pre-pandemic levels and costs are up. Additionally, 65% of restaurant operators said their total sales volume in March 2021 was lower than it was in the absence of COVID-19. Still, 44% of operators expect their average sales from April – June to be higher than in March 2021.
The survey also revealed that 91% of limited-service operators and 90% of fullservice operators will continue offering customers expanded outdoor seating if their jurisdiction continues to allow it after the coronavirus crisis is over.
“We continue to see positive growth in sales as consumer confidence grows,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research & Knowledge Group at the National Restaurant Association. “However, it is important to note that 90% of operators say recruiting and retaining employees will likely be more difficult after the pandemic is over than it was before it began. This is a large contributor to why more than half of fullservice operators and 42% of limited-service operators polled are unable to open at the maximum-allowed capacity and grow back their business—they do not have enough employees to staff the restaurant.”
According to the National Restaurant Association’s monthly sales and jobs reports analysis more than a year into the pandemic, restaurant and foodservice sales are currently down $290 billion from expected pre-pandemic levels, and restaurants are still down 1.7 million jobs.