That’s how much sales at bars and restaurants increased in March compared to the month before, showing an industry hit especially hard by the pandemic making a significant recovery, data released Thursday indicates.
It was the largest monthly increase since June for the category—technically called “food services and drinking places”—that saw its sales crash 54% between February and April when the pandemic hit last year, according to advance estimates for the monthly retail sales report from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the $62 billion in sales posted remains 4.8% below pre-pandemic levels, the category’s strong sales in March contributed to an overall 9.8% month-over-month increase in U.S. retail sales.
“As the weather in March improved from the freezing weather in February, dining igloos and yurts gave way to patios and socially distanced sidewalk tables,” Wells Fargo economists wrote in a commentary. “The long-awaited rebound is good for the hospitality sector.”