Restaurant Sales Continue Upward Trend in March

U.S. restaurant sales, while $3 billion below pre-pandemic sales from February 2020, are seemingly on the rebound.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which was highlighted by the National Restaurant Association, indicates an uptick from $54.8 billion in sales at eating and drinking establishments in February 2021 to $62.2 billion in March 2021.

Several other types of businesses saw increased spending last month, too, with sporting goods stores grabbing the lion’s share of consumer spending.

The National Restaurant Association also noted an increase in outdoor dining availability as of this month, according to its poll of operators, which could play a role in increased consumer interest in dining out. The association adds that “8 in 10 adults [say] they favor allowing restaurants to continue setting up tables on sidewalks, parking lots or streets on a permanent basis.”

Another component of pandemic-era dining that the National Restaurant Association and operators alike largely condone a continuation of is to-go alcohol, which has now been made permanent in some states.

According to Datassential, the pandemic forced the closure of 79,438 food establishments in the U.S.

Those who remain aren’t exactly expecting an immediate return to health. While the latest data shows signs of improvement, a February poll by the National Restaurant Association indicated that six in 10 operators think it will be at least seven months before their business regains normalcy. Also in February, however, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index measured 100.1, a first since the beginning of the pandemic.

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