The U.S. restaurant industry lost more than three decades of jobs in the last two months, according to a National Restaurant Association (NRA) analysis of preliminary data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Eating and drinking places, which are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, lost 5.5 million jobs in April, on a seasonally adjusted basis, which follows a net decline of nearly a half-million jobs in March. This is almost three times more jobs than any other industry.
“In February, there were more than 12 million people on the payrolls of eating and drinking places across this country, but today more than six million restaurant workers are home without a job—and that number is going to grow,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the NRA, in a press release.
The good news is that the lingering tailwinds from government relief payments and the lifting of dine-in restrictions in states like Georgia, Florida, and Texas have helped to improve U.S. restaurant chain transaction declines in the week ending May 3, according to The NPD Group. For the week ending May 3, total transactions were down 26% from one year ago compared to a 32% decline the prior week and a decline of 43% the week ending April 12, the low point of the COVID-19 disruption, according to CREST Performance Alerts.
Restaurant dine-in restrictions have been lifted for nearly 192,000 restaurant units or about 29% of all units since May 1, based on an analysis using NPD’s ReCount restaurant census. However, social distancing measures have reduced dining room capacity by as much as 75% in some areas.
“Many restaurant operators have weighed the value of limited operations versus the cost of opening, health risks, or other factors, and chose to remain closed or continue with a takeout-only model,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “The most recent week’s performance suggests we’ve achieved about 30% of the potential volume in states where restrictions were lifted. Looking ahead to next week, another 46,000 restaurants could come back online.”
Transactions at quick-service restaurant chains were down 24% in the week ending May 3 versus a year ago compared to a 30% decline in the previous week. Full-service restaurants also improved, declining 67% versus a 71% decline in the week ending April 26.