Restaurants in a COVID 19 Economy - Social Distancing as the Main Course

April 27, 2020

While every industry has been affected by the coronavirus, restaurants have been arguably hit the hardest. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 8 million restaurant workers have been laid off or furloughed and the industry as a whole is on track to lose $240 billion by the end of the year.

The massive hit that the industry has taken is largely due to social distancing measures that have ordered restaurants to close on-premises dining, which despite growing takeout trends represents the “majority of business in the table service segment.”

In this context, many restaurateurs across the country are desperately waiting for state guidelines on how and when to safely reopen dine-in services.

But reviving the restaurant industry will require much more than simply lifting quarantine measures. The most essential ingredient will be a customer base willing to dine out again.

“Who’s Making Reservations?”

Zeeto recently conducted a poll that surveyed the willingness of regular restaurant patrons to start dining out again once the quarantine is lifted and the speed in which they intend to do so. Out of the five states we targeted, California drew the most responses (1,910).

As the first state to enforce a statewide stay-at-home order, which closed non-essential businesses and restricted restaurants to carry-out and deliver orders, where do Californians now stand?

  • 38% are undecided whether or not they’ll dine out once the quarantine is lifted
  • 23% plan to dine out soon thereafter, but cautiously
  • 22% plan to wait a few months to be extra safe
  • 9% plan to dine out immediately
  • 8% don’t plan to dine out until there’s a vaccine

Percentage of regular restaurant patrons in California who answered the following question: “Once the quarantine is lifted, how long will it be before you start dining out again?”

The Not-So-Grand Reopening

The bad news for the restaurant industry is that additional stimulus will be necessary to begin recovering, and full recovery will likely take a long time.

The good news, however, is that their patrons have expressed a willingness to start dining out again, but the vast majority will need to be convinced that it is safe to do so. Among other things, this will require restaurateurs to administer social distancing within their own restaurants.

In a state like California, such measures will likely be enforced by state and municipal governments anyway, so prudent restaurateurs should begin immediate preparations for the “new normal.