After a turbulent two years, business has returned to “normal-ish” for most restaurants, but the ongoing hospitality labor shortage is keeping many from operating at full capacity … and keeping eager consumers from getting a table at preferred eateries. Popmenu’s new nationwide surveys of 374 restaurant owners/operators (May 18 - June 10) and 1,002 consumers (May 20-21) shed light on the industry’s recovery, the impact of pent-up demand and warmer weather, and what this means for in-person dining options – or lack thereof – this summer.
The Road to Recovery – The vast majority of restaurant owners/operators report that market demand and sales at their locations have bounced back or will soon. However, a significant percentage voiced concern that another COVID wave this summer could shutter their business for good.
- 30% of restaurant owners/operators say their business has returned to pre-COVID levels while 25% say business has surpassed pre-COVID levels.
- 29% expect business to return to pre-COVID levels in the second half of 2022 while others anticipate it will take longer to recover.
- 42% say their business wouldn’t likely survive another COVID surge this summer.
Impact of the Labor Shortage on Summer Dining – While restaurants readily welcome the influx of in-person diners this summer, they’ve had to turn some business away because they don’t have enough workers to keep pace with guest volume. More are relying on tech to help bridge labor gaps.
- 51% of restaurants don’t have the staff needed to handle on-premise demand this summer.
- 33% are not operating at full capacity because they can’t find enough staff.
- 76% of restaurants have adopted new tech or increased tech usage to manage through the labor shortage, ranging from online ordering and contactless dining to digital waitlisting and AI phone answering.
Competition for Reservations – Consumers are having a hard time reserving tables at popular eateries as restaurants advise to book well in advance.
- 52% of restaurant owners/operators say consumers are not likely to get a reservation with them on the same day.
- 45% of consumers are currently having trouble getting a reservation at a preferred restaurant.
- 59% of consumers are ordering online more often because of long wait times or no available seating.
“While more than half of restaurant owners and operators say their business has reached or surpassed pre-pandemic sales, they can’t take full advantage of the demand for on-premise dining because they’re short-staffed,” says Brendan Sweeney, CEO and Co-founder of Popmenu. “This can be incredibly frustrating for restaurateurs — and their customers — which is why more are relying on guest-facing technology to make operations more efficient and capture revenue opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. For consumers, a little patience, planning ahead and staying connected with the restaurant will help ensure you’re next on the guest list.”