Below are statistics from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), and insights about those statistics, to help restaurateurs understand the current and foreseeable industry landscape:
- Consumers likely won't be spending much now or in the near future. 44% of consumers think the economy is in poor shape and 34% think the economy is only in fair shape. When consumers feel this way, they don't spend.
- Be hopeful for 2022. The forecast for 2021 economic growth is a paltry +1.5%. On the bright side, 2022 looks to be in the 6-7% range.
- Employment growth in restaurants is currently almost stagnant after a relatively strong resurgence in the May-June period.
- Urban areas are getting crushed. The permanent closure of restaurants has been most damaging in urban areas followed by suburban areas. Rural area restaurants have performed the best.
- Operators are expecting declining sales in the short term. In a survey on October 1, 2020, an average of 71% of operators in the full-service segment felt that sales would fall even further in 6 months' time.
- Restaurant operators are more pessimistic about their business than in the spring. In May, 57% of all restaurant operators were "optimistic" about their business. By late summer, that number had fallen to 30%.
The unfortunate fact is that the operators' pessimism contributes to worse outcomes and makes the future less certain. When it comes to forecasting, most economists will tell you that expectations often overrule reality.
Another important trend for restaurant operators to keep in mind, especially if you own a multi-state chain, is that certain states and regions are doing better than others. The more restrictions put in place for in-restaurant dining, and the less government predictability, the greater the economic damage to the restaurant industry.