Mar 2, 2021

Survey Shows Devastating Impact of Pandemic on Restaurants Continues

wi_impact_0221Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Wisconsin Restaurants Continues

The National Restaurant Association conducted a survey of 3,000 restaurant operators nationwide from February 2-10, 2021. The results for the state of Wisconsin show that restaurants are still struggling to survive the impacts of the pandemic with many restaurants believing that it will be 7-12 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant.  

 Wisconsin Results

Restaurant Business Conditions

  • Consumer spending in Wisconsin restaurants remained well below pre-pandemic levels in January. Overall, 83% of restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume in January was lower than it was in January 2020. Only 9% of operators reported higher sales in January. Overall, sales were down 30% between January 2020 and January 2021.
  • With on-premises capacity limited during the last several months, restaurant operators had no choice but to focus on their off-premises business. While many restaurants saw off-premises sales rise, it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for their lost on-premises sales. Among Wisconsin operators who say their off-premises business increased compared to pre-COVID levels, 69% say their higher off-premises sales have made up less than 30% of their lost on-premises sales.
  • Most restaurant operators do not expect business conditions to improve during the next several weeks. Only 12% of Wisconsin operators expect their sales in February and March to be higher than it was in January. Fifty percent of operators think their sales will decline in February and March from January's levels.
  • Looking further down the road, most restaurant operators do not expect a return to normal business conditions any time soon. Thirty-three percent of operators think it will be 7-12 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant, while 29% think it will be more than a year. An additional 12% of operators say business conditions will never return to normal for their restaurant.
  • For many restaurants, additional actions from the federal government will be critical to their business surviving beyond a few weeks. Thirteen percent of Wisconsin operators say they will 'probably' or 'definitely' be closed within 3 months if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government. 

Restaurant Jobs

  • Deteriorating business conditions led to additional job losses in recent weeks, with 29% of Wisconsin operators saying they laid off or furloughed employees in December or January. 
  • Although many restaurants added back employees after the initial lockdowns, overall staffing levels remain well below normal. Eighty-three percent of Wisconsin operators say their current staffing level is lower than what it would normally be in the absence of COVID-19. Forty-three percent of operators are currently more than 20% below normal staffing levels.
  • With future business conditions remaining uncertain, most operators do not plan to expand payrolls in the near term. Only 8% of Wisconsin operators expect their restaurant’s staffing levels to be higher in February and March than it was in January. Seventeen percent of operators expect their staffing levels to decline in February and March.

Charitable Activities

  • Even in the midst of the most challenging business conditions in history, the philanthropic spirit of the restaurant industry remained intact. Seventy-six percent of Wisconsin operators say their restaurant business made a charitable contribution (such as cash, food, space, in-kind or volunteering) since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.  

Source: National Restaurant Association, national survey of 3,000 restaurant operators conducted February 2-10, 2021

National Results

Restaurant Business Conditions

  • Consumer spending in restaurants remained well below pre-pandemic levels in January. Overall, 77% of restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume in January was lower than it was in January 2020. Only 13% of operators reported higher sales in January. Overall, sales were down 26% between January 2020 and January 2021.
  • With on-premises capacity limited during the last several months, restaurant operators had no choice but to focus on their off-premises business. While many restaurants saw off-premises sales rise, it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for their lost on-premises sales. Among restaurant operators who say their off-premises business increased compared to pre-COVID levels, 65% say their higher off-premises sales have made up less than 30% of their lost on-premises sales.
  • Most restaurant operators do not expect business conditions to improve during the next several weeks. Only 18% of operators expect their sales in February and March to be higher than it was in January. Forty-one percent of operators think their sales will decline in February and March from January's levels.
  • Looking further down the road, most restaurant operators do not expect a return to normal business conditions any time soon. Thirty-two percent of operators think it will be 7-12 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant, while 29% think it will be more than a year. An additional 10% of operators say business conditions will never return to normal for their restaurant.
  • For many restaurants, additional actions from the federal government will be critical to their business surviving beyond a few weeks. Fourteen percent of restaurant operators say they will 'probably' or 'definitely' be closed within 3 months if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government. 

Restaurant Jobs

  • Deteriorating business conditions led to additional job losses in recent weeks, with 29% of operators saying they laid off or furloughed employees in December or January. 
  • Although many restaurants added back employees after the initial lockdowns, overall staffing levels remain well below normal. Eighty percent of operators say their current staffing level is lower than what it would normally be in the absence of COVID-19. Forty-one percent of operators are currently more than 20% below normal staffing levels.
  • With future business conditions remaining uncertain, most operators do not plan to expand payrolls in the near term. Only 14% of operators expect their restaurant’s staffing levels to be higher in February and March than it was in January. Twelve percent of operators expect their staffing levels to decline in February and March.

Charitable Activities

  • Even in the midst of the most challenging business conditions in history, the philanthropic spirit of the restaurant industry remained intact. Seventy-five percent of operators say their restaurant business made a charitable contribution (such as cash, food, space, in-kind or volunteering) since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.  

Source: National Restaurant Association, national survey of 3,000 restaurant operators conducted February 2-10, 2021

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. 

- END -