Report: Over 110,000 Restaurants Closed During Pandemic

Portrait shot of an Asian restaurant owner putting a closing down poster into a door window due to Covid 19 outbreak
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More than 110,000 restaurants—at least 17% of all the eating and drinking establishments nationwide—were either temporarily or permanently closed as of Dec. 1, the National Restaurant Association estimates in a new report about the pandemic’s devastating impact. 

Even worse, 75% of restaurant operators expect to see their sales decrease from current levels over the next three months, according to the trade group’s November survey of 6,000 restaurant operators. The association cited the bleak survey data in a letter Monday pleading for Congress to bail out restaurants.

“For every month that passes without a solution from Congress, thousands more restaurants across the country will close their doors for good,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the association, wrote in the letter. 

The COVID-19 crisis continues to crush the restaurant business. With cases on the rise, some states are starting to order new restrictions to combat the pandemic. Plus, as the weather cools in many parts of the country, outdoor dining is less plausible. In November, about 49% of establishments offered outdoor dining, down from 67% in September. 

Workers have borne the brunt of the restaurant industry’s troubles. While the overall economy added jobs last month, employment in food services and drinking places has been going in the wrong direction, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry shed 17,000 jobs in November and is still down 1.9 million jobs compared to the same time last year.

“Restaurants and bars, which had ramped up rapidly in April through October, reduced payrolls in November, also in part due to government restrictions,” First Trust Advisors wrote after the latest jobs report last week. “The good news is that, with vaccines on their way, these factors should all be temporary.”

Vaccines can’t come soon enough for food service workers, who have had a tough time of it even if they have stayed working. Over 80% have said that their tips have declined during the pandemic, especially when they try to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols on customers, according to a recent survey by the advocacy group One Fair Wage.