ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Some restaurants have adapted to a different landscape through curbside service and contactless delivery, but many have had to shut down altogether.
In New York, it’s estimated that 8,333 restaurants have closed; 4,500 in New York City and 3,833 throughout the rest of the state, according to the National Restaurant Association. However, the actual number is likely to be greater, said New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) President and CEO, Melissa Fleischut.
“Our once vibrant restaurant industry is suffering. Our members are in worse economic shape than most restaurants across the country, and today’s numbers make that picture crystal clear,” said President and CEO of NYSRA, Melissa Fleischut.
The NYSRA has been pushing greater flexibility for restaurants, asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ease restrictions. Additional outdoor dining improved consumer confidence and restaurants are looking forward to warmer temperatures so they can reopen outdoor dining. The 10 p.m. curfew has been difficult especially for bars, said Fleischut.
Compared to the rest of the nation, New York restaurants are facing a greater challenge. “Fifty-four percent of New York restaurants said they would likely not survive the next six months without federal relief, compared to the thirty-seven percent of restaurants nationwide,” according to a national survey, the NYSRA said.
A survey of 6,000 restaurant owners in the U.S. overseen by the National Restaurant Association was conducted from November 17 to 30, 2020. It included 238 New York restaurants reporting higher labor costs, lower sales volume, and lower profit margins than the national average due to the pandemic.
New York vs. National
(reported from restaurant operators)
|Reporting total dollar sales volume lower in October 2020 than October 2019||85%||79%|
|Expecting sales to keep decreasing over next 3 months||88%||75%|
|Total labor costs (as a percent of sales) higher than pre-COVID||63%||59%|
|Profit margin lower than pre-COVID||91%||86%|
|Unlikely to still be in business in six months without more federal aid||54%||37%|
|Considering temporary closure until the pandemic ends||58%||36%|
|Lower than normal, pre-COVID staffing levels||89%||81%|
|Currently more than 20% below normal staffing levels||59%||45%|
|Anticipating further layoffs during the next three months||78%||49%|
Across the board, responses from New York’s restaurant association paint a bleaker picture than the national responses do.
Total sales in the restaurant industry were $240 billion below what the National Restaurant Association predicted pre-pandemic for 2020. What’s more, over 110,000 restaurants nationwide reported closures as of December 1, according to the 2021 State of Restaurant Industry report.
The federal government made assistance available for businesses hurt financially by the coronavirus through the Paycheck Protection Program, administered by the Small Business Association. The system was overwhelmed and funds quickly became unavailable when businesses rushed to apply for the program, and initial payees included huge chains like Shake Shack. More funds were made available and still remain so for suffering small restaurants, Fleischut said.
Since last year, Fleischut said the NYSRA has been trying to help the industry by making more than 40 webinars available for both members and non-members alike. “Everybody understands how much the industry is hurting and everybody needs help. A restaurant out there trying to go it on their own, that doesn’t really have a network of support, like (if) their trade association isn’t connected with us or anything like that, right now has got to be really struggling to find answers,” Fleischut said.
The webinars are available on the NYSRA’s website on demand. The National Restaurant Association has also made the 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report available for non-member restaurant operators for free, it can be ordered through their website.