November has brought mixed messages about the fate of the American restaurant industry in the coming months. A report by capital market company BTIG suggests that the situation is “less dire” than has been predicted. Peter Saleh, a BTIF analyst, told Nation’s Restaurant News, “While we expect an elevated level of restaurant closures this year, we believe the figure will be in the high-single digit range, far below dire forecasts of 30% or more closure rates that have circulated.”
But some 100,000 restaurants around the country have already closed either permanently or indefinitely, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). A survey of NRA members also found that 40% think they’ll likely be out of business within six months if there is no further support from the federal government. The NRA had earlier predicted that overall restaurant sales this year will be $240 billion less than sales projections before COVID-19.
And there’s more bad news. In recent weeks, as coronavirus cases have spiked nationwide, some states have lowered capacity limits for indoor dining again or banned inside service altogether. Such restrictions pose further difficulties for operators as colder weather sets in, curtailing outdoor dining options. The particulars change almost daily, but here are some of the restaurant reopening restrictions in every state.
The industry is fighting back where it can. Capacity restrictions and other rules are being legally challenged in various places by restaurant industry groups, and some restaurateurs are simply openly defying government orders and remaining open as they see fit. Nonetheless, the food service business will almost certainly continue to suffer until the pandemic is brought under control, as restaurants of every kind continue to shut down for good.
Well-loved family-oriented chains like Friendly’s on the East Coast and Luby’s across Texas have recently filed for bankruptcy or gone out of business altogether. Celebrity chefs on the order of Wolfgang Puck, José Andrés, and David Chang have closed some of their establishments in major cities.
Long-lived institutions like 97-year-old Sokolowski’s University Inn in Cleveland and the centenarian Pacific Dining Car in Los Angeles — having survived the Depression and two World Wars — were no match for the coronavirus. Famed eating places, whether elegant or plain, are examples of the kinds of American businesses that might not survive the coronavirus.
24/7 Tempo has been tracking permanent pandemic-related restaurant closures across the country since May, with frequent updates. This latest report covers popular establishments in 26 states and the nation’s capital.