Pointing to the high volume of business that restaurants do in July and August, Riehle, the restaurant association research expert, expects the positive trend to continue as dining and travel restrictions ease. “Historically, 1 out of every 4 sales dollars in the industry comes from travel and tourism,” he says. This summer “the leisure market will come back, followed by business, then international tourism.”
The news isn’t all good for restaurants. Even though owners saw improvement, eating and drinking sales for April 2021 were down $1.3 billion, or 2%, from sales of $66.2 billion in February 2020 before the start of the pandemic. The industry group’s monthly sales and jobs reports estimates that, for the last 14 months, the restaurant and food-service industry sales are currently $290 billion lower than “expected pre-pandemic levels.”
Additionally, much-publicized staffing shortages could hobble business as dining rooms continue to fill up. Restaurants are currently down 1.7 million jobs. In New York City, where 5,000 out of an estimated 24,000 restaurants are closed, there are about 140,000 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, according to Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
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Ally Marotti contributed.