The contagious Delta variant is making it harder for restaurants to recover.
One in five adults surveyed between Aug. 13 to Aug. 15 said they stopped going to restaurants as Delta cases rose, according to a survey from the National Restaurant Association released Tuesday.
Labor and food costs continue to be an ongoing challenge for the restaurant industry. Seventy-five percent of operators surveyed said recruiting employees was among their top challenges as of June 2021 – that’s the highest level recorded, according to the National Restaurant Association. What’s more, full-service restaurants were down 626,000 jobs or 11% lower than pre-pandemic employment levels, according to the survey.
Another hurdle restaurant owners are facing is rising food shortages causing menu prices to spike nearly 4% through June 2021, the survey suggests.
"The trends from the first half of the year are promising, but a lot of uncertainty remains in regard to the delta variant, consumer confidence, and ongoing labor challenges," Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research for the National Restaurant Association said in a statement, adding: "We expect restaurant pent-up demand will remain high in the coming months. However, in this state of flux, maintaining the availability of on-site dining with few capacity restrictions will be critical to keeping the overall sales momentum going forward, especially for full-service operators."
While total sales at restaurants across the country are slated to rise 19.7% from 2020 to $789 billion in 2021, that number will still be 8.7% lower than the pre-pandemic, when annual sales were at $864.3 billion, the report noted.