Sep 15, 2020

Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Wisconsin Restaurants

National Restaurant Association logoThe National Restaurant Association recently completed a nationwide survey of restaurant owners and operators in their ongoing assessment to provide data-driven updates on the state of the restaurant industry due to the pandemic. 3,500 restaurant operators were surveyed from August 26 – September 1, 2020.  The results are stark for Wisconsin and nationally.

Wisconsin Results 

Restaurant Business Conditions

  • Consumer spending in restaurants remained well below normal levels in August. Eighty-five percent of Wisconsin restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume in August was lower than it was in August 2019. Overall, sales were down 36 percent on average.
  • Even though sales were significantly lower for most restaurants, it doesn’t mean their costs also fell proportionally. Fifty-three percent of Wisconsin operators say their restaurant’s total operational costs (as a percent of sales) are higher than they were prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Only 23 percent of operators say their costs are lower, as a percent of sales.
  • With on-premises dining capacity limited, off-premises is increasingly important for restaurants. Seventy-four percent of operators say off-premises sales currently represents a higher proportion of their total business than it did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Twenty-eight percent of Wisconsin operators say business conditions in August were worse than they were in July, while only 10 percent say business conditions improved in August.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Wisconsin operators say they don’t expect their restaurant’s sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months.
  • Thirty-three percent of Wisconsin operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now, if business conditions continue at current levels.
  • Thirty-seven percent of operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now, if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government. 

Restaurant Jobs

  • Although many restaurants added back employees as restrictions were partially lifted in recent months, overall staffing levels remain well below normal. On average, Wisconsin restaurant operators say their current staffing levels are only 71 percent of what they would typically be in the absence of COVID-19.
  • In the weeks following the initial rehiring surge that occurred in May and June, restaurant staffing trends were mixed. Forty percent of restaurant operators say they added employees in July and August, while 15 percent say they laid off or furloughed employees in July and August.
  • Twenty-nine percent of Wisconsin restaurant operators say they plan to add more employees during the next 30 days, while 26 percent say they anticipate laying off or furloughing more employees during the next 30 days.
  • Overall, 44 percent of Wisconsin restaurant operators do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months. 

National Results 

Restaurant Business Conditions

  • Consumer spending in restaurants remained well below normal levels in August. Eighty-two percent of restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume in August was lower than it was in August 2019. Overall, sales were down 34 percent on average.
  • Even though sales were significantly lower for most restaurants, it doesn’t mean their costs also fell proportionally. Sixty percent of operators say their restaurant’s total operational costs (as a percent of sales) are higher than they were prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Only 18 percent of operators say their costs are lower, as a percent of sales.
  • With on-premises dining capacity limited, off-premises is increasingly important for restaurants. Seventy-one percent of operators say off-premises sales currently represents a higher proportion of their total business than it did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Thirty-one percent of restaurant operators say business conditions in August were worse than they were in July, while only 14 percent say business conditions improved in August.
  • Sixty-two percent of operators say they don’t expect their restaurant’s sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months.
  • Thirty-eight percent of operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now, if business conditions continue at current levels.
  • Forty percent of operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now, if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government. 

Restaurant Jobs

  • Although many restaurants added back employees as restrictions were partially lifted in recent months, overall staffing levels remain well below normal. On average, restaurant operators say their current staffing levels are only 71 percent of what they would typically be in the absence of COVID-19.
  • In the weeks following the initial rehiring surge that occurred in May and June, restaurant staffing trends were mixed. Forty-two percent of restaurant operators say they added employees in July and August, while 19 percent say they laid off or furloughed employees in July and August.
  • Thirty percent of restaurant operators say they plan to add more employees during the next 30 days, while 20 percent say they anticipate laying off or furloughing more employees during the next 30 days.
  • Overall, 38 percent of restaurant operators do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months. 

Source: National Restaurant Association, national survey of 3,500 restaurant operators conducted August 26 – September 1, 2020

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is one of the largest trade associations in the state with over 7,000 member locations throughout Wisconsin.  The mission of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association is dedicated to the success of the Foodservice and Hospitality Industry.  The Association advocates on behalf of the restaurant industry, provides a voice for the restaurant industry to consumers and the media and provides access to information and services to help members better run their businesses.  WRA represents the entire foodservice industry which includes over 16,000 licensed food service establishments.

WRA membership includes a wide range of foodservice businesses representing virtually every size and style of restaurant in the state. Members include fine dining establishments, mom-and-pop supper clubs, small cafes, quick service restaurants, corporate chain restaurants, institutional food service operations, catering businesses and hotel and motel foodservice among others. 

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