‘Can’t Do Much More’ Like Omicron, Winter Bite

‘Can’t Do Much More’ Like Omicron, Winter Bite

Indeed, even with creative workarounds, nearly 60% of restaurants across the country reported sales decreased by more than half in December, according to a survey of 1,200 conducted by the Independent Restaurant Coalition. Meanwhile, 46% of restaurant owners said Omicron impacted their operating hours for more than 10 days. “I don’t think that this is a matter of continuing to look at restaurateurs and ask us to keep pivoting and innovating. We’ve been doing that,” Stulman said. “There’s not much more we can do.” And spending at restaurants and bars dipped in December as surging cases driven by the variant have weighed on consumer activity.

“With the temperatures dropping, a lot of diners that were more comfortable dining outside, that option’s also being removed away,” Stulman said. Outdoor dining, while still a lifeline to thousands of restaurants, is at risk as the winter turns brutal. Frigid temperatures and a massive winter storm is targeting the Northeast in the next few days, making al fresco eating nearly impossible.

Since the pandemic hit, innovations like outdoor dining, takeout and delivery and technology have been critical lifelines to help the industry stay afloat. Yet Stulman suggested that eateries may have reached the end of their rope. Citing a litany of reasons related to surging Omicron infections of COVID-19, Stulman added that “we’re seeing diners canceling parties, canceling New Year’s reservations plans, canceling holiday plans, a slowdown in diner interest.”

Still, the ongoing headwinds from the pandemic have impacted and become more challenging for businesses that didn’t get a slice of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF)— a $28.6 billion federal effort to rescue struggling businesses that was part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.  Over 40 percent of businesses who did not receive the grants have said they are in danger of filing for or have filed for bankruptcy, compared to 20% who received the federal grants. And nearly 30% of businesses with RRF funding are bracing for an eviction, versus 10% of those that received funding. The pandemic rocked the hospitality industry, with over 100,000 restaurants forced to close in the first year of the pandemic, according to data from the National Restaurant Association.

We expect a further decline this month,” Ian Shepherdson, Chief Economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note on Friday. Story continues

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