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Restaurants In U.S. Threatened by Delta Variant

The Delta variant of COVID-19 has begun to threaten the recovery of restaurants in the United States, according to a new report from the National Restaurant Association. This new report reveals that about one in five adults have stopped going out to eat at restaurants because of the surge in COVID-19 cases — cases that have spiked because of the contagious Delta variant.

Other data backs this up, as restaurant sales have dropped in August when compared to July, according to Black Box Intelligence. In August, restaurant sales were up 6.3% from 2019. In July, only a month before, sales were up about 8.1% from 2019.

The National Restaurant Association also revealed data that states that three in five people changed the way they eat out at restaurants, including how they spend their money at restaurants when they do go out. For example, instead of going out to eat with friends, responders revealed that they would rather order take out, pick up their food curbside, or eat outside rather than eat indoors.

The restaurant industry as a whole has been working towards a complete recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many signs pointed to a successful year for restaurants around the company, especially as people began to travel and meet up with friends, sometimes for the first time in many months or over a year. 

Earlier this year, as many Americans became fully vaccinated, vaccinated individuals didn’t have to wear masks and many regulations went away, as so many thought the pandemic was going to subside. As a result, consumer demand for goods and services shot through the roof. While many consumers first focused on spending their money on goods, as regulations continued to go away they turned their attention to going out to eat and spending their money on services, such as going out to restaurants.

For the whole year, total annual sales at restaurants were forecasted to rise about 19.7% from 2020. While this is still lower by about 8.7% from the total sales from 2019, the restaurant industry was hit hard during 2020, so a slower recovery was somewhat expected. In total, restaurants were thought to make $789 billion this year.

Now, that recovery is threatened by the Delta variant. If the Delta variant continues to spread at an alarming rate, restaurants may continue to be hit hard, much as they were during the pandemic. While many places may not close as they once did in 2020, people may not naturally go out to eat because of the surge in cases. Most economists don’t believe that the economy will shut down as it did in 2020, though consumers can still choose to stay indoors if they are concerned about the pandemic. 

This could affect different types of restaurants differently. For example, restaurants that really cater to take-out and have a full online menu may not be hit as terribly as others. Steakhouses — which did very well over the summer — mainly rely on tourists and private business bookings. Steakhouses are also less likely to have an extensive take-out menu. Therefore, these types of restaurants may be hit harder than others.

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