Eaten Up: Pandemic Hammers Restaurant Industry

The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a massive bite out of the restaurant business. With stay-at-home orders now the norm and restaurants doing only take-out or delivery, the negative impacts are starting to show. The National Restaurant Association predicts 11% of restaurants could close for good due to the pandemic just in the next month. In the long term, it could be even worse. "We will see up to about 50 percent (of restaurants) close, and some of that will be temporary," says Jonathan Horowitz with Convive Hospitality Consulting. "And I'm imagining that 20 to 25 percent of them will close permanently."

The restaurant association reports sales nationwide were down nearly 50% just in the first three weeks of March. "Some people will obviously be able to weather the storm and reopen, but some just don't have the financial cushion to be able to do that," says Horowitz. To that end, there is a relief effort underway to help struggling Texas restaurants and their employees.

As for the restaurants that do survive the Great Coronavirus Pandemic, they likely won't look the same. "You're going to see people reinventing their business models, with some able to reopen under different concepts or with different names," says Horowitz. "We're going to see a shift in the marketplace, where people go for smaller locations, more fast casual, more take-out and delivery, as opposed to bigger full-service models."

"It's unfortunate, but I think we're going to lose a fair number of restaurants permanently," he says.

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