Restaurant damage to date: $25B in sales, 3 million jobs

New research shows the impact has been particularly severe for operators in New York—a possible preview of what’s to come in other areas.
Photograph by Jonathan Maze

More than 3 million restaurant jobs and $25 billion in industry sales were lost during the first 22 days of March because of the coronavirus, according to research from the National Restaurant Association.

Findings shared with the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) show that restaurants nationwide suffered an average year-over-year sales decline of 47%. The impact forced 44% of operators to suspend restaurant operations and about 70% to discontinue jobs. Half expect further payroll cutbacks during the pandemic.

New York’s restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit, according to figures released by the NYSRA. More than 250,000 restaurant workers have been left unemployed, and sales have dropped by an average of 58% for an aggregate loss of $1.9 billion for the first three weeks of March. About 78% of restaurant operations in the Empire State have laid off employees.

“Our members are being tested across the state like never before,” Melissa Fleischut, CEO of the NYSRA, said in a statement. “They’ve had to adapt on the fly as this situation isn’t changing by the week or day; it is changing by the hour or minute.

“We urge everyone to utilize takeout and delivery from their favorite restaurants during this difficult time.” 

New York has been the domestic epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 60,000 cases confirmed as of Sunday, or more than half the total cases reported for the United States. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has referred to the state as the nation’s “canary in the coal mine” and warns that’s what happening in his state is a preview of what other areas can expect.

The Association had earlier projected that the U.S. restaurant industry would lose $225 billion in sales and 5 million to 7 million jobs by mid-June. It also estimated that 3% of restaurants have already permanently closed as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey, and suggested that another 11% could close within a month. 

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