The bad news just keeps coming for the restaurant business in America. A New York Restaurant Association study covering more than a thousand operators around the state found that, unless a full-scale relief program came through, only 36.4% of the respondents thought it likely that they’d still be open in 2021. The New York Post, meanwhile, reported that almost 90% of bar and restaurant owners in New York City — often considered the nation’s dining capital — were unable to pay their rent in August.
Things weren’t any better elsewhere. The Michigan Restaurant Association estimates that 4,000 establishments statewide could close within the next six months. That trade group’s counterpart in Massachusetts says that roughly 20% of that state’s eating places — about 3,600 in all — have already fallen victim to the pandemic. A survey of Texas restaurants by the National Restaurant Association revealed that 46% of them expect to close by spring if no federal relief is forthcoming.
While the situation varies from state to state, restaurants in most places have to operate under officially mandated restrictions. Some are allowed to serve only outdoors — which will become a problem in many parts of the country as the weather cools — and in places where indoor dining is permitted, capacity is often limited to 25% or 50%. That’s a serious problem: The restaurant technology and consulting firm OneDine estimates that most restaurants need to function at 75% seating capacity to be profitable, according to an infographic called “Restaurant Recovery.”
Even more frustrating for restaurateurs is the fact that as COVID-19 cases spike unexpectedly in various places, some governors are rolling back reopening concessions only recently granted to restaurants. Here are some states where recently opened bars and dining rooms are closing again.
Another problem for restaurants is that the dining-out experience has changed dramatically, with protective coverings widely required for diners and staff alike and the unappetizing scent of disinfectant often in the air. This potentially discourages customers. As the proprietor of one popular restaurant in Maine put it when announcing that his establishment would not be reopening, “Face masks, plexiglass shields, it’s just not what Reno’s was.” (These are 21 restaurant and supermarket chains that require their customers to wear masks.)
The landscape is bleak for restaurants on every level, from fast food to fine dining. Famous chefs like José Andrés, Wolfgang Puck, and Thomas Keller have closed restaurants in recent months, for instance, while a major franchisee of Pizza Hut and Wendy’s units went bankrupt in July. The latest chain casualty is the budget-priced steakhouse operator Sizzler USA, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid-September.
24/7 Tempo has been tracking permanent restaurant closures around the country since May, with updates every two weeks. This latest version of the list covers a wide range of popular places in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, more prominent restaurants are joining this roster literally every day.