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Restaurant Industry: Over Half-Million Eateries In ‘Economic Free Fall’

Over 110,000 restaurants have shuttered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and another 500,000-plus establishments are in an “economic free fall,” the National Restaurant Association said in a letter to Congress.

The letter included findings from a new National Restaurant Association Research Group survey that revealed a steep industry decline that will only get worse if a relief package isn’t passed soon. The survey included 6,000 restaurant operators and 250 supply chain businesses Nov. 17-30.

“What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain, and independent — are in an economic free fall,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for public affairs, said in the Monday (Dec. 7) letter. “And for every month that passes without a solution from Congress, thousands more restaurants will close their doors for good.”

According to a National Restaurant Association press release on Tuesday (Dec. 8), the survey findings indicated that 87 percent of full-service restaurants saw an average sales revenue decline of 36 percent. Further, 83 percent of full service operators said they anticipated things to get worse between now and March. Some 58 percent of chain and independent full service operators said that the next three months would bring more furloughs and layoffs.

More than 110,000 establishments — some 17 percent of all restaurants — have closed permanently or long-term, the survey said. Most of the locations that shuttered for good were long-established community restaurants, open for 16 years. Some 16 percent were open 30 years or more.

Almost half of the closed restaurant owners — 48 percent — said that they expect to stay in the industry in some manner.

“In short, the restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” said Kennedy.

He added that “we appreciate” the recent effort by lawmakers to strike a compromise for new stimulus aid but the amount is not enough unless it’s “a down payment for a larger relief package in early 2021.”

The National Restaurant Association sent a different letter to the National Governors Association last month condemning new state restrictions and saying the industry is not a super-spreader of the virus. The group stated that there is “no scientific evidence” connecting rising COVID-19 cases to restaurants.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition said that one-third of U.S. restaurants will close by the end of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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