March Restaurant Industry News Roundup
Raise your hand if your bracket is still intact. Either way, as the tournament marches us further into madness, it’s a great excuse to head to your favorite sports bar and grab some game day goodies. We are leaving the Ides of March behind, but not before one last glance at March’s flavors of the month including food lockers as pickup options, segment closure rates, an update on New York takeout alcohol legislation, and a Facebook group in Charleston making a difference with positivity. Would you like your March Restaurant Industry News Roundup frozen or on the rocks?
10% of All U.S. Restaurants Permanently Close
According to Firefly, Datassential’s database, 79,438 restaurants have closed since the start of COVID-19 lockdowns, or 10% of the 778,807 restaurants that were operating at the beginning of the pandemic. What segments were the hardest hit? Glad you asked!
- Food trucks faced a closure rate of 22.5%
- Quick-service restaurants faced a 9.8% loss
- Chains with 51 to 100 units were hit hardest with closures at 16.2%
- Burger concepts had a 7.3% closure rate
- Restaurants categorized as “French” had a closure rate of 15.3%
Within the last year, restaurants faced a sea of challenges. Fortunately, Datassential CEO Jack Li predicts that 90% of the restaurants that remain open will continue to stay open. He says that the good news is that “the rate of closures is slowing, and the future is bright for those restaurants who have learned to adapt to the host of new challenges facing them in our new normal.”
The Next Big Thing: Big Chain Food Lockers
Contactless strategies have become common because of the pandemic, and several restaurants including KFC and Burger King are announcing plans to introduce food lockers. Think of them like Amazon lockers, where customers can pick up items without encountering anyone else. The automat format has been around since 1895 and developed into food lockers. Lockers can be assorted sizes, temperatures, or even utilize UV lights to kill bacteria. Customers can order as they usually would, from an app or online, and then set a locker as the pickup location. Currently, restaurants are still figuring out how customers can open the lockers. Some restaurants are using QR codes, pin pads, or touch screens.
How can lockers help restaurants? They help with social distancing efforts, allowing customers to set a collection time for pickup and reducing interaction with employees. Pre-pandemic, automats existed to sell hot food and decrease a company’s real estate and labor costs. Automats seemed to die out around 2019, but could this be a sign of a comeback or an evolution because of the pandemic?
Cocktails to Go in the Empire State
After a year of pandemic lockdowns, the hospitality industry continues to deal with legislation concerning alcohol delivery. In New York, multiple extensions have allowed restaurants and bars to continue selling wine bottles and cocktails to-go. Elected officials have pushed legislation to make the law permanent post-pandemic. The latest version of the law was set to expire at the end of March. Before the deadline, the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) is pushing for officials to continue to extend the policy.
The change to the State Liquor Authority went into effect last March when restaurants were unable to sell food and drinks on-site. Last June, restaurants cited takeout cocktails as an important source of revenue keeping their doors open. In 2020, an NYSRA survey found that 86 percent of New York residents wanted this program to continue after the pandemic.
“Allowing restaurants to offer alcohol for takeout and delivery has been a lifeline for many in the restaurant industry during this difficult time,” Melissa Fleischut, NYSRA president, commented.
Facebook Comments Actually Save the Day!
When it comes to immediate gratification, Christine England created the LowCountry Eat Out! Facebook group to help restaurants by assuring members that restaurants are doing their best during this difficult period. A year ago, she was inspired to originally create the group as a takeout and delivery group to allow her to share the information she collected from local chefs.
Over the past year, LowCountry Eat Out has accumulated 38,000 members and has been credited by restaurant owners to helping them keep their doors open. Overall, the group spreads positivity as the restaurant scene in Charleston fights to recover or maintain when it comes to the era of the pandemic. It’s a great indication that when a community comes together, they can do a lot.
Conclusion – March Restaurant Industry News Roundup
Another month and the world keeps turning. Between increased vaccinations and federal aid around the world for the restaurant industry, things are starting to look up. Did we miss anything in our March Restaurant Industry News Roundup? Let us know in the comments section below.
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About the Author
Devyn Nance is the Marketing Coordinator at QSR Automations. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and from Loyola University Chicago with a master’s degree in Global Strategic Communication. She considers herself an (amateur) profiler – trained solely from watching every episode of Criminal Minds. Outside of work, Devyn loves to shop, travel, hang out with friends and family, read, and watch shows on various streaming platforms.