The US restaurant industry has now lost two-thirds of its workforce, more than eight million employees, as a result of COVID-19 closures, according to latest data from the National Restaurant Association.

It reported that more than 60% of restaurant owners believed that existing federal relief programs would not enable them to keep their teams on payroll during the downturn. It said that nationally restaurants had lost $30 billion in March, and were on track to lose $50 billion in April, and estimated that COVID-19-related loss would be more than $240 billion by the end of the year.

Of those restaurants that have managed to stay open during the emergency, takeout and delivery services have provided at least some form of lifeline, and one that appears to be strengthening.

Data from Nielsen CGA’s RestauranTrak service reveals that sales actually grew by 19% in the week ending April 18 compared to the previous week, which had been 11% ahead of the week before that.

That improvement, however, has to be set against the fact that overall sales in the week to April 18 were still down 66% on the pre-Covid norm, but was still better than the 72% fall seen the previous week.

In the states of New York, Illinois, Florida and California, featured in the survey, Illinois showed the biggest week-on-week increase of 25%, with New York and Florida both up 22% and California ahead 12%.

Scott Elliott, SVP at Nielsen CGA, said: “No-one would suggest that for those On Premise units still operating, an average sales decline of 66% is positive news. But, a steady trend of increased dollar sales week-on-week is a positive, and right now I’ll take any good news gratefully. This shows the impact of the hard work that so many operators have put in to adjust their operations for delivery, contactless pick up, delivery-appropriate menus, grocery packs, enhanced online presence, better customer engagement strategies, and so much more.”

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