The National Restaurant Association Rolls Out 2021 Mid-Year State of the Restaurant Industry Update; Tom Bené and Hudson Riehle Discuss
WASHINGTON, DC - The restaurant industry has had to overcome numerous challenges over the past year and a half as a result of the ongoing pandemic. While eating and drinking experiences were altered for many consumers, the foodservice sector is continuing to strategize to meet their evolving demands. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) recently released its mid-year supplement to the 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, highlighting the continued impact of COVID-19 on the foodservice sector.
The report takes a deep dive into the key indicators and trends influencing the restaurant industry’s recovery, including the current state of the economy, workforce, and food and beverage sales, as of June/July 2021, as explained in a press release.
“Faced with one of the most devastating and disruptive events of our lifetime, the restaurant industry has taken significant strides toward rebuilding over the first half of 2021,” said Tom Bené, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Consumer expectations around dining out have changed, and the industry is continually adapting to not only meet but exceed these expectations. Restaurant operators, along with their partners throughout the supply and distribution chain, remain focused on providing diners with a safe and enjoyable experience, amid rising food and labor costs and challenges related to the pandemic. Given these factors, our outlook through the end of the year is one of cautious optimism.”
Some of the key findings depicted in the report include:
- Food and beverage sales in the restaurant and foodservice industry are projected to total $789 billion in 2021, up 19.7 percent from the previous year
- As of June 2021, 39 states and the District of Columbia had reopened to 100 percent indoor dining capacity; 11 states and Puerto Rico are open at varying capacities ranging from 50 percent to 80 percent
- Six in 10 adults have changed their restaurant use due to the rise in the delta variant
The report also addressed labor and food costs as challenges within the restaurant industry. In its mid-year supplement, the association noted that while July marked the seventh consecutive month of staffing growth with a net increase of 1.3 million jobs in the first half of 2021, while eating and drinking establishments remain nearly one million jobs or eight percent below pre-pandemic employment levels. Seventy-five percent of restaurant operators reported that recruiting employees was their top challenge as of June 2021—the highest level ever recorded, according to the release.
Further exploring the rebound of the restaurant industry, the report also revealed that an NRA survey conducted August 13-15, showed that the delta variant threatens to reverse the gains made in the first six months of the year.
Some of the study’s discoveries about consumer habits in response to the delta variant include:
- Six in 10 adults changed their restaurant use due to the rise in the delta variant
- 19 percent of adults said they completely stopped going out to restaurants
- 37 percent of adults said they ordered delivery or takeout instead of dining in a restaurant
- 32 percent of adults said that if asked to wear a mask and/or show proof of vaccination to dine indoors again, they would be less likely to dine in a restaurant
“The trends from the first half of the year are promising, but a lot of uncertainty remains in regard to the delta variant, consumer confidence, and ongoing labor challenges,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research. “We expect restaurant pent-up demand will remain high in the coming months. However, in this state of flux, maintaining the availability of on-site dining with few capacity restrictions will be critical to keeping the overall sales momentum going forward, especially for fullservice operators.”
As the industry continues to work to gain momentum amidst these pressing challenges, the National Restaurant Association will continue monitoring COVID-19’s effect on the foodservice sector, as it plans to release its full State of the Restaurant Industry Report in early 2022.
To download the full 2021 Mid-Year Update, click here.
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