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Restaurant Sales Slump Amid Coronavirus Shutdowns

April sales at eating and drinking establishments were half of February’s, the lowest level in over 35 Years when adjusted for inflation

Extended COVID-19 shutdowns across the country are forcing consumers to allocate their food spending differently in recent weeks as restaurant dining areas remain closed. The National Restaurant Association reports eating and drinking places registered sales of just $32.4 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in April, according to preliminary data from the US Census Bureau.

April’s total was less than half of the $65.4 billion in sales that were rung up in February. And represented the smallest volume since March 2005 in nominal terms. However, when adjusted for inflation, consumer spending at eating and drinking places was at its lowest level since October 1984.

Many restaurants are still in operation offering takeout and delivery options but those options offer only a fraction of sales from on-premises traffic, the association said.

Added to March totals, which fell roughly $20 billion short of what would normally be expected, sales at eating and drinking place establishments were off more than $52 billion in the two months.

Furthermore, the plunge in spending over the past two months at non-restaurant foodservice operations in the lodging, arts/entertainment/recreation, education, healthcare and retail sectors, and the total shortfall in restaurant and foodservice sales approached $80 billion during the last two months alone.