The National Restaurant Association predicts total U.S. sales may decline by as much as $225 billion over three months, costing as many as 7 million jobs. That grim forecast is all the more noteworthy considering most operators struggled to hire just weeks ago at a time of record low unemployment rates.
Jay Bandy, president of Goliath Consulting Group, says restaurant chains flattened their management ranks as they made cutbacks during the Great Recession. While many of those organizations are leaner now, he expects to see similar cutbacks in home offices as companies respond to rapidly declining sales.
“It’s going to wipe out some middle managers,” he says.
Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of the New England Consulting Group, says the question isn’t so much whether the U.S. will experience a recession, generally defined as two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product. The real question is how long this recession will last.
His consultancy predicts the 2020 recession will be deep, but maybe not particularly long lasting. The nation may climb out of it as early as the fourth quarter of this year, he says.
“But we will feel a lot of pain between now and then,” Stibel says. “And unfortunately, the restaurant industry will feel more pain than most businesses.”
While few will be spared, Stibel says the quick-service space is well suited to survive this period. With dine-in service banned in many jurisdictions, it’s obvious that brands who already excel at off-premise execution have a leg up in this environment that revolves around carry-out, delivery and curbside pickup.
“[Quick service] is probably going to do the best because they have done a better job of everything from drive-thru to pick up to delivery,” he says. “So, we think [quick service] is better positioned than fast-casual or white tablecloth. But it is going to require even for them a pivot.”