Overall restaurant spending in the U.S. is only down 1 percent from from where it was in January 2020, according to new numbers from TOP Data and Zenreach that were emailed to The Spoon.
That increase varies widely, however, with some states spending more at restaurants than they were in January 2020 and some spending less. Washington, Utah, and South Dakota are the top three states spending more, with increases of 26 percent, 24 percent, and 20 percent, respectively. Others experiencing increases include Alaska (19 percent), Alabama (18 percent), and Nebraska (18 percent).
On the other hand, several states are spending significantly less at restaurants than they were at the beginning of the year. Idaho is spending 47 percent less, followed by Massachusetts (41 percent), Rhode Island (34 percent), and California (29 percent).
In many cases (but not all of them), less spending lines up with stricter regulations for restaurants throughout the year. California for example, has had to shut down indoor dining once again in several counties, including LA County and San Francisco. By contrast, South Dakota has imposed far lighter restrictions on restaurants throughout the pandemic, so the spending increase in the state doesn’t surprise.
How these numbers change over the next few months depends a lot on the trajectory of the pandemic. A vaccine may be on the near horizon, but restaurants have much work to do in terms of establishing trust with customers around the safety of eating inside their dining rooms.
“If you can create a safe dining environment, effectively target your best customers, and maintain (or even boost) your marketing spend, the more likely you are to successfully drive customers into your locations and sustain your restaurant business during this challenging time,” noted John Kelly, CEO of Zenreach, in today’s email.
At the same time, some customers now prefer off-premises formats like takeout and delivery, and so restaurants will have to continue developing those channels in order to see more customers spending as we head into 2021.
Finally, overall restaurant spending may be up, but not enough to keep tens of thousands of restaurants — many of them smaller, independent establishments — from shutting down. These are businesses that may not have extra budget to spend on marketing or intricate tech solutions to make delivery more efficient. In order to change this, restaurant spending over the next few months will need to increase at these establishments, not mainstream chains.