Will Restaurants Recover In 2021?

The U.S. restaurant industry ended 2020 with 2.5 million fewer jobs and more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments were either temporarily closed or shut down for good, the National Restaurant Association says in a report.

Job Losses: The majority of restaurants and bars that closed in 2020 were "well-established" businesses that have been operating for an average of 16 years, the restaurant association said in its report titled "2021 State of the Restaurant Industry." Unfortunately, 16% of restaurants that closed in 2020 had been operating for at least 30 years.

On average, a restaurant that closed employed 32 people, while 17% of restaurants kept at least 50 people employed.

Nearly three out of four restaurant owners who closed their business for good have no immediate desire to open a new restaurant in the months ahead. Only 48% of owners plan on staying in the food industry in some capacity in the months and years ahead.

State Of The Industry Today: The restaurant and foodservice industry entered 2020 on track to represent 10% of all payroll jobs in the economy, according to the association. But 62% of fine dining operators and 54% of family dining and casual dining operators indicate their staff levels are more than 20% below normal in early 2021.

Approximately 2 million fewer 16 to 34-year-olds are working in the industry today compared to pre-pandemic levels.

"Restaurants were hit harder than any other industry during the pandemic, and still have the longest climb back to pre-coronavirus employment levels," the report stated.

Menu Innovation For 2021: Restaurant owners continue to adapt their menu items to stay relevant in the consumer's mind. Half of casual and family dining operators and 63% of fine-dining operators are offering fewer items on the menu today compared to pre-pandemic.

Consumers want to transact with restaurants that offer a simplified menu with a good selection of comfort foods and/or restaurants with healthier options, according to the report. The availability of alcohol was also highlighted as an important addition to a take-out menu.

Pent Up Demand: There is "no doubt" that consumers want to return to restaurants as it represents an "integral part of our social fabric." Nearly nine out of 10 adults enjoy going to restaurants and 85% of them saying dining out is a better way to spend their time than cooking and cleaning at home.

"Restaurants are the cornerstone of our communities, and our research shows a clear consumer desire to enjoy restaurants on-premises more than they have been able to during the pandemic," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of National Restaurant Association's Research and Knowledge Group. "We've also found that even as the vaccine becomes more available and more social occasions return to restaurants, consumers will continue to desire expanded off-premises options going forward. Both will continue to be key for industry growth.

"With more than half of adults saying that restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle, we are confident that, with time, the industry is positioned for successful recovery."

(Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash)

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