When was the last time you’ve been to a restaurant?
Despite the global pandemic and government mandated lockdowns, it might not have been that long ago — depending on where you live. In many states, restaurants have been allowed to reopen in limited capacity. So, if you’re up to it, you can once again dine out — but you may have to be patient.
Social distancing measures are still in place despite many restaurants reopening. So how are restaurants adjusting to what could be the “new normal” for a while? There are many answers to the question, but the short one is: poorly.
Staying Open for Takeout is Losing Restaurants Money
Many companies stayed open during the pandemic for takeout and delivery, but while that was necessary to keep them open, it was losing money for most restaurants. There are two issues. First, restaurants need very high turnover rates to cover their overhead. Takeout orders were only a fraction of the business they were seeing before, and they still needed to account for labor costs, rent, utilities, and food purchasing.
Second, many were losing money to services such as DoorDash, which charge restaurants up to 20 percent of the meal as a fee.
Public Outdoor Spaces Are Being Utilized
To encourage more customers, many businesses are now opening up outdoor spaces. Patios aren’t available in every restaurant, but where they are available, it can entice people to “dine-in.” Unfortunately, the real problem that business owners are running up against is that most people don’t want to go out. They’ve acclimated to ordering and eating at home, and would prefer not to expose themselves to potential risk.
Where outdoor space isn’t usable, restaurants are simply positioning their tables farther away, or even filling tables up with mannequins. But this does reduce their overall capacity, and capacity is something that a restaurant generally needs to survive.
Many Restaurants Remain Closed
Some restaurants are opting not to deal with social distancing at all. As many as 30 percent of restaurants even in open states have refused to open back up. It simply isn’t worth it to them, because they aren’t going to make enough money for their overhead. Additionally, some restaurateurs fear that they could reopen only to get shut down again, which would cause additional issues in terms of employees.
According to the raw data, while customers are returning to restaurants, they’re do so slowly. Spending is down 44% in the areas where restaurants have reopened. People simply aren’t ready to return to restaurants, which means even with the appropriate social distancing measures in place, the restaurants themselves are having a hard time existing.
A New Future for the Industry
Restaurants were likely the hardest hit industry during the pandemic. Approximately 3 percent of restaurants had already shut down by March 27th. In total, 20 percent of all restaurants may be closed by the end. Restaurants that were already suffering will certainly be the first to go, but even restaurants that simply had bad luck may shut down after three full months of limited income.
But those that are able to weather the storm are the ones that are adapting swiftly to social distancing measures, leveraging online sales, and doing their best to keep their overhead down. This trial-by-fire may very well be something that reduces competition, and many businesses may return once the dust has settled.