In December, sales slipped at 98 percent of U.S. restaurants, according to an Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) poll of 1,169 eateries around the country.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said their sales had tanked by half, while 80 percent said that the Omicron surge had shortened their hours of operation.
The impact was worst among businesses that did not share in the $28.6-billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund that was part of president Joe Biden’s American Rescue Fund.
Four in five of those dining establishments said they are in danger of closing permanently this year, the IRC said.
Restaurants also juggled staffing shortages with the need to pay higher wages to attract and keep staff. About a third of businesses that received rescue fund grants still had to lay off workers and about 40 percent of those not receiving aid did.
TREND FORECAST: As we pointed out in “Covid War Killing Restaurants” (11 Jan 2022), the restaurant business is hard in the best of times and posts a higher failure rate than almost any other business sector.
Now, higher costs—especially to attract and keep able workers—and consumers pinching pennies in an era of inflation will end the life of even more eateries.
The future of the restaurant business will be dominated by large chains with deep pockets. There will be far fewer restaurants overall and far fewer employment opportunities for the industry’s traditional workforce of moms, young people, immigrants, and, increasingly, retirees looking to supplement their meager or absent pensions.