Georgia Governor Brian Kemp allowed restaurant owners to reopen for dine-in service on April 27. As the first state to reopen, Georgians have now generated two weeks of data and therefore the nation’s first indication as to how much demand exists for restaurant dining rooms. The result? As of the two weeks ending May 9, sales at Georgia’s restaurants increased 102.5%. Revenue at full-service restaurants (expressly limited to restaurants with reopened dining rooms) increased 176.7%.
Although these are impressive numbers when measured weekly, absolute revenue is still lower than in 2019 when taken in the context of year-over-year change. Nationwide, revenue at full-service restaurants during these two weeks decreased 61% compared to the same two weeks in 2019. That data comes from Restaurant365 specifically segmented to full-service restaurants.
Including fast casual and takeout restaurants, Restaurant365 estimates that total restaurant sales are down 44%, which roughly aligns with Black Box Intelligence’s report of a 47% decrease during the same period. NPD Group has a more optimistic estimate, claiming that its point-of-sale systems show -43% year-over-year as of April 12, yet that number had “improved” to -26% as of May 3.
Georgia’s first two weeks roughly correlate with the first week of Texan dining room reopenings. (Texas reopened on May 1st.) Texans spent an increased 171.9% at full-service restaurants during their initial reopening week, which is roughly equivalent to Georgia’s 176.7% increase.
Nationwide, NPD Group estimates that dine-in restrictions have been lifted for about 29% of restaurants. State-by-state trackers at FSR Magazine and New York Times currently show 22 states which are permitting dining room operations.
“There’s growing evidence that cooking-at-home fatigued consumers are eager to order from restaurants again,” wrote a team of reporters at Bloomberg today. “Business remains well below pre-pandemic levels, however.” Analyst Michael Halen agreed, “Restaurant same-store sales bottomed in April and will improve in May due to dining room reopenings, cooking fatigue and cabin fever.”
Georgia benefited from a significant increase in out-of-state visitors when it reopened its economy. Although there are over 21 states which have reopened today, at that time, none of Georgia’s bordering states allowed dine-in food service. As a result, Georgia attracted an additional 62,440 out-of-state visitors per day during the first week of Georgia’s reopening. Although anonymized smartphone data was not able to pinpoint the precise businesses that visitors patronized, researchers suspected that tens of thousands patronized full-service restaurants that week.
A full rebound is not technically feasible, as all states are limiting attendance for social distancing reasons. Some states like Kansas recommend the 10/10/10 rule: no more than 10 patrons at a time, seated 10 feet apart, for no more than 10 minutes. Most states are following a 25% capacity limit. States like Iowa are more generous at 50%.