Restaurants are facing at least another 18 months of very challenging times according Accenture's global head of consumer goods and services practice, Oliver Wright.
2020 has so far been an annus horribilis for restaurants, with the US’s National Restaurant Association claiming that 100,000 restaurants have closed their doors permanently. That’s one in six. And if that wasn’t bad enough, 43% of the surviving restaurants say they are unsure if they will still be open in 6 months.
With the virus continuing to spread, many countries are experiencing their second or even third wave of the pandemic. There is some positive news with regards to a vaccine, but that must be tempered with the realism of how long it would take to verify and roll out a safe vaccine on a global scale. It all looks like the worst is yet to come for restaurants this year and beyond.
"It's very clear now that it's not a 2020 problem," Wright told Business Insider. "The next 15 months, at a minimum, and probably next 18 months, are going to be extremely challenging.”
In a research note published this week, Gordon Haskett analyst Jeff Farmer explained what might be a perfect storm brewing for the restaurant industry, with factors such as cooler fall weather reducing outdoor dining options, and reduced unemployment benefits.
Farmer also points to the upcoming election, one of the tensest in generations as a potential disruption to footfall. He highlights what he calls the "CNN effect," which will see customers choose to stay home and watch current affairs programmes instead of going out to eat.
The subject of how elections can impact restaurant businesses is something Farmer covered in a report earlier this year, writing: "Restaurant sales growth rates (especially for casual dining) slowed materially in 2008, 2012 and 2016 over the 6-month period leading into the November election.”
Other experts have explored how a more polarised society, creating greater social anxiety, can lead to more customers choosing to eat in rather than try new restaurants in other parts of town.