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Restaurants Projected to See Nearly 20 Percent Sales Jump From 2020, But Still Face Challenges

  • National Restaurant Association issues mid-year supplement to its report on the state of the food and beverage industry
  • Sales up nearly 20 percent compared to 2020, giving rise to “cautious optimism” about the year-end outlook
  • Report identifies a number of ongoing challenges including hiring difficulties and altered consumer behaviors due to the spread of the Delta variant

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The National Restaurant Association expressed “cautious optimism” for the year-end outlook of the food service industry as a mid-year report shows a nearly 20 percent increase in food and beverage sales from 2020. However, the trade group also identified challenges such as rising costs and disruptions caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19.

In a supplement to its State of the Restaurant Industry report, the National Restaurant Association covered factors current to June and July 2021. Sales in the restaurant and food service industry are projected to reach $789 billion in 2021, which would be a 19.7 percent increase from 2020.

Other findings included:

  • Job creation in the food service industry has proceeded steadily with 1.3 million positions added, but this total is still down 8 percent (nearly 1 million jobs) from pre-pandemic levels
  • The food service industry has one of the highest rates of unfilled jobs, and 75 percent of restaurant owners say recruiting employees is their biggest challenge
  • Higher food and labor costs are also challenging restaurant owners, and menu prices were up 4 percent through June
  • While 39 states have allowed dining to resume at full capacity, the new wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Delta variant of the virus is likely making many customers more wary of visiting a restaurant
  • An August survey by the National Restaurant Association found that six out of 10 consumers have altered their restaurant habits due to the Delta variant, with nearly one in five deciding to stop visiting restaurants
  • 37 percent said they are getting meals through takeout or delivery due to the Delta variant, with 32 percent saying they’re less likely to dine out if a restaurant requires face masks or proof of vaccination
  • Consumers are looking for the services restaurants adopted during the pandemic to continue, including to-go cocktails, technology for ordering and picking up food, and outdoor dining options in spaces like sidewalks and parking lots

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