A total of 10.2 percent of all U.S. restaurants have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic, according to new research from food industry intelligence firm Datassential.
The report finds that of the 778,807 restaurants of all types in the U.S. that were open at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 79,438 have closed for good as of today. (The figure includes restaurants launched during the pandemic.)
Food trucks have suffered the most of any category, with 22.5 percent of them permanently shuttered. Chains with less than 501 units have also seen high rates of permanent closures, and the report finds that chains with between 51 and 100 units have see the highest closure rate (16.2 percent).
Unsurprisingly, larger QSR chains have come out of the last year with the fewest closures: 9.8 percent. Because these businesses were already set up to cater to off-premises orders like takeout and drive-thru, they were inherently better able to weather the figurative storm that shuttered dining rooms in 2020 and forced an industry-wide shift to off-premises formats. As well, large QSR brands like Chipotle or McDonald’s had the money to further invest in digital ordering tools and new(ish) formats like delivery.
These companies are also the ones currently leading a quasi-reinvention of the fast food format. Burger King, Shake Shack, the aforementioned brands, and many others have in recent months released designs for new store formats that emphasize more drive-thru lanes, less dining room space, and more ways to automate the order and pickup process. (Conveyor belts!)
Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration will start taking applications next month for grants from the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Restaurants, bars, and other foodservice establishments that are not publicly traded and have fewer than 20 locations are eligible to apply.