The restaurant industry has had a tough year – and that’s putting it mildly. The sector was acutely affected by the lockdowns following the outbreak of the coronavirus, especially the government’s successive clampdowns on alcohol. Are we going to see an uptick in the future that we’ve all been hoping for? Or will we have to bite down for the time being? This blog examines the outlook for the restaurant industry.

What’s the prognosis?

Africanews reported on data from Statistics South Africa and said that our economy contracted for the first time in 11 years in 2020 as the series of coronavirus lockdowns hampered our economy. Our gross domestic product shrank from 7% in 2020 versus a 0.2% expansion in 2019. StatsSA said this sharp decline was due to inactivity in industry, commerce and the hospitality sector. A 1.5% growth was attributed to the industrial and commercial sectors in the fourth quarter, which was more robust than economists had anticipated. Experts hope that the economic recovery which began after the easing of the lockdowns will continue to gain momentum this year.

The restaurant industry

For a closer look at how the restaurant industry has been affected, The Daily Maverick also published an article on the sector that examined data from StatsSA. These figures show that the restaurant industry is still struggling. Data for February 2021 showed a 24.6% year-on-year decrease. Bar sales declined by a shocking 49.3% and food sales by 22.5%. Restaurants and coffee shops have been allowed to sell alcohol since the prohibition was lifted in February, but they have still shown a 32.4% decline.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. There was a flat growth of 0.1% for takeaways and fast food outlets. This shows that South Africans are going to their favourite fast-food restaurants and making use of food delivery apps including UberEats and Mr D Food. Consumers perceive ordering takeaways to be safer, but there is also a financial element to this. Many restaurant patrons have been hit hard in the pocket and are responding to more affordable, fast-food options.

Meanwhile in the US 

The US preceded South Africa in the coronavirus crisis and maybe we can take heart from the fact that its restaurant industry is showing signs of recovery. According to Restaurant Business Online, there is optimism in the industry on the first anniversary of the start of the pandemic in the US.

Not only is the vaccine rollout slowly gathering momentum, but a massive relief bill was also put in place to aid small restaurant operators. These developments come in time for the warmer weather that will hopefully mean more customers, especially for outdoor dining. The publication reports that restaurant launches spiked during the first quarter, according to Yelp, a restaurant review site. These openings have also provided hope for post-pandemic growth.

Are you keeping up with the latest developments in the restaurant industry? Find out more about the tools that restaurant owners can adopt in the digital revolution, including online ordering, Point of Sale, digital menus, mobile payments and loyalty programmes.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst