More than 100,000 U.S. Restaurants Close During Pandemic, While Others Adapt
More than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or for an extended period of time because of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. Full Story
The total, which represents one in six U.S. eateries, was up from the 100,000 shutdowns reported in September. Eighty-seven percent of full-service restaurants reported an average 36% drop in sales revenue and 83% expected sales to be even worse over the next three months.
On top of decreased sales, 59% of operators say their total labor costs are higher than they were pre-pandemic. Fifty-eight percent of chain and independent full-service operators expect continued furloughs and layoffs for at least the next three months.
“What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type—franchise, chain, and independent—are in an economic free fall,” said Sean Kennedy, EVP for public affairs in a letter to Congressional leadership.
The letter shared the new survey findings and offered support for the moderate compromise proposal as a “down payment” toward a larger relief package in 2021.
“In short, the restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” said Kennedy. “We appreciate the efforts of a group of moderate members of the House and Senate to advance a true compromise between the competing proposals from Democratic and Republican leaders. If this moderate plan represents a ‘down payment’ for a larger relief package in early 2021, it will provide restaurants with immediate relief to hold on through the most dangerous point in our business year.”
Private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners has accelerated its exit from the casual-dining business, reported The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 3). Full Story
Sun Capital, which had previously been an active investor in dining chains, is expected to sell five restaurant holdings in 2020 alone if it gets court approval for a sale of bankrupt Friendly’s by the end of the year. This would leave it with just one restaurant holding, Smokey Bones, in 2021. The firm eventually plans to sell Smokey Bones as well, according to Marc Leder, co-founder and co-CEO of Sun Capital.
However, some businesses aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. New York City restaurants are getting creative in serving their guests, reported Forbes (Dec. 8). Full Story
Restaurants in the city can currently seat guests at 25% capacity indoors with a 10 p.m. curfew on dine-in service, but a complete shutdown of indoor dining grows more and more likely.
Operators are responding by adapting to the current environment. One example is Brooklyn-based Sweet Chicken which had to close back in March. When thinking of how to reopen, the owners decided to shift from full-service to quick-service, opening back up in May with a new concept: Lil’ Sweet Chick.
Additionally, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing has been experimenting with operations and its menu. After closing its doors for less than three weeks, the restaurant began selling frozen products for customers to make at home. Food Institute Focus
Restaurants Combining with Retail Stores to Drum Up Sales
As COVID-19 continues to dampen sales at restaurants, some eateries are opening in retail stores, which have profited from the pandemic.
Hy-Vee Inc. is preparing to open its 20th Wahlburgers at a Hy-Vee restaurant on Dec. 8 in Columbia, MO, reported Winsight Grocery Business (Dec. 2). Full Story
The grocer announced plans for opening an additional 24 restaurants across its eight-state region in 2021.
The locations will include most regular menu options, including signature burgers, home-style sides, housemade condiments, salads, sandwiches, shakes, and a full-service bar. A full menu will be available to order online via Hy-Vee Mealtime to Go.
Interestingly, the Wahlburgers/Hy-Vee partnership started long before the pandemic. In 2017, Hy-Vee revealed it would build, own, and operate 26 Wahlburgers restaurants to diversify its business model. The first location opened in 2018 at Mall of America in Bloomington, MN.
Another chain that implemented this idea before the pandemic was Saladworks. The move to open Saladworks restaurants within grocery chains began in 2019 when the chain opened its first in-store location at a ShopRite in Philadelphia, reported Supermarket News (Nov. 24). Full Story
Currently, Saladworks has restaurants in seven grocery stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York—with more than 10 new openings planned during the first quarter of 2021.
More recently, the chain opened its first location in a Kroger store in Cincinnati and, prior to that, debuted in a Giant Company supermarket in Camp Hill, PA.
“Grocery stores are an exciting growth area for our brand,” said Eric Lavinder, VP of development for Saladworks. “With COVID-19 bringing safety challenges to self-serve food bars in grocery stores everywhere, guests can feel safe with Saladworks. Guests can get the same great experience and variety at a grocery location as they can at a traditional restaurant.”
Grocery store restaurants for Saladworks also offer shoppers the option to order online through the Saladworks website or by calling ahead for pickup. Shoppers can also have their Saladworks orders delivered using third-party delivery partners like DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats.
Meanwhile, Charleys Philly Steaks is opening its newest location in partnership with Walmart, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 25). Full Story
This marks the first Charleys opening within a Walmart, with growth plans for 10 more locations next year.
Limited seating is available within the restaurant’s dining space and the store will be offering online ordering, curbside pick-up, and third-party delivery, as well as the brand’s newly launched mobile app and rewards program.
Additionally, the updated store design for Walmart is centered around “fun family experiences” such as arcade games and whimsical design elements. Guests will also enjoy special value priced food bundles available only at Walmart locations. Food Institute Focus
Breakfast Delivery is Ramping Up
The year 2020 has been like no other. Yet, despite all the changes to regular routines, one thing has remained constant: we still need to eat. With that, because of new delivery options, food offerings are more accessible than ever.
Reports indicate that the total value of online food deliveries expected in 2020 could reach upwards of $26.5 billion—which would be in excess of a 20% increase year-over-year.
A recent study carried out by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) reported that the biggest delivery growth area was breakfast orders, with 35% of people ordering morning food and drink.
Food delivery company DoorDash noted that more Americans ordered breakfast for delivery in 2020, with an expectation that this trend would continue into 2021, according to its 2020 State of Flavor report. Full Story
DoorDash also saw an increase in breakfast orders this year as more Americans stayed at home. The company cited iced coffee, sausage, egg, and cheese, breakfast burritos, pancakes, and French toast as among the most ordered items in 2020.
In order to expand its delivery presence, DoorDash inked a sizable deal with Dunkin’ Brands to deliver the chain’s coffee and espresso beverages, baked goods, and sandwiches from 3,500 of Dunkin’s locations, with further expansion anticipated over the coming months.
“That first sip of coffee is what gets most of us going in the morning, and even though our morning routines look a bit different these days, we’re excited to make it easier for Dunkin’ fans everywhere to enjoy their favorite classics from the comfort of their couches, home desks, or wherever they start their day,” says Toby Espinosa, VP of Business Development at DoorDash.
Bite Squad, an up and coming on-demand delivery player with numerous locations in 14 states, recently revealed that it is increasing its breakfast delivery presence in Florida. The popular app now has more than 450 Tallahassee area partners from which to choose from—with at least 34 offering breakfast.
Meanwhile, the playing field is getting more and more competitive as DoorDash vies for increased market share from rivals GrubHub (to be acquired by Just Eat’s Takeaway.com), Uber Eats (who partners with coffee powerhouse Starbucks), UK-based Deliveroo, and FreshDirect (grocer Ahold Delhaize recently announced the purchase of a majority stake), and others.
In addition to the Ahold/FreshDirect news, the UK’s Deliveroo (Amazon holds a 16% stake) appointed Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan to manage an IPO of between 35% to 40% of its business in the first half of 2021, reported Reuters (Nov. 19). Full Story
Market observers will ultimately find out if the growing breakfast delivery trend will continue once the pandemic subsides. Food Institute Focus
Will Consumers Be Attracted to Restaurant Gift Cards this Holiday Season?
Weak gift card sales could impede the recovery of restaurant chains, reported The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 1). Full Story
More than half of restaurant gift card sales occur around the holidays, according to Wells Fargo Securities analyst Jon Tower. Restaurants book revenue from the gift card when it is redeemed instead of when its sold, resulting in meals paid for with a gift card traditionally accounting for a significant amount of first-quarter sales. In 2019, redemptions accounted for 14% of first-quarter restaurant sales at Outback Steakhouse and 9% at Cheesecake Factory, according to Tower.
This year, with foot traffic down, it is likely that in-store gift card sales will drop. However, digital ordering has made buying gift cards on the web/via an app easier.
Restaurant chains have also been running gift card–specific promotions to encourage consumer purchases. For example, Chili’s is offering diners a $10 gift card free with a $50 gift card purchase.
Through Dec. 24, Outback Steakhouse is offering a drive-up concierge service for gift card shoppers, reported FSR Magazine (Nov. 30). Full Story
Customers can call ahead or visit their local Outback and pull into a designated Gift Card Drive-Up parking spot and an employee will come to their car and complete the gift card purchase. Like Chilis, the company is offering a $10 gift card when a $50 gift card is purchased.
“Outback Steakhouse created Curbside Take-Away in early 1990s and now we’ve applied that concept to gift cards just in time for the holidays,” says Danielle Vona, Outback chief marketing officer. “Our goal is to create a ‘no worries’ experience this holiday shopping season.”
The Cheesecake Factory ran a promotion from Nov. 23 through Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) that offered consumers two eSlice of Joy Cards for every $25 in gift cards or eGift cards purchased online, reported FSR Magazine (Nov. 23). Full Story
eSlice of Joy Cards and Slice of Joy Cards are each redeemable for one complimentary slice of The Cheesecake Factory’s cheesecake beginning Jan. 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021.
Smaller chains are also doing what they can to promote gift card purchases during the holiday season.
TooJay’s Deli is giving customers a $5 bonus card for future use with every $25 of TooJay’s gift cards bought through Dec. 24. The gift cards are redeemable from Dec. 26 through Feb. 28, 2021. Full Story
Executives on the Move:
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop appointed Jessica Wescott as COO and CFO. Full Story
Ecolab Inc. appointed Chris Roberts EVP and general manager, Global Food and Beverage. Full Story
Monte Restaurant Development Group appointed Todd Kosakowski as managing partner and franchisee. Full Story
Sysco named Tom Peck EVP and chief information and digital officer. Full Story
QDOBA Mexican Grill appointed Leviathan Winn as CFO. Full Story
Subway appointed Paul Fabre SVP of culinary and innovation. Full Story
REGO Restaurant Group named Mark Lohmann president, reported QSR Magazine (Dec. 7). Full Story
Starbucks Corp. appointed Mellody Hobson as non-executive chair of its board of directors starting March 2021. Full Story
El Pollo Loco is taking a design-forward approach with new designs at every touchpoint of the customer experience, including packaging, in-store merchandising, and gift cards, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 19). Full Story
Meanwhile, El Pollo Loco unveiled its new L.A. Mex restaurant design, which focuses on off-premise convenience and the digital experience. Full Story
Chipotle partnered with the Farmlink Project and set a goal to donate 10 million meals to food banks this holiday season. Full Story
Wendy’s will make a bid for nearly 400 of its restaurants operated by bankrupt franchisee NPC International, according to an SEC filing. It said it submitted a consortium bid along with a group of pre-qualified franchisees. If the bid is successful, Wendy’s expects the franchisees to control most of the markets, while Wendy’s takes over one or two at the most, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 20). Full Story
P.F. Chang’s is rolling out new lettuce wraps, reported FSR Magazine (Nov. 20). Full Story
Union Square Hospitality Group preemptively closed its restaurants for indoor dining and offered takeout only because of rising COVID-19 cases in New York City, reported New York Post (Nov. 20). Full Story
Donatos Pizza will be in 200 Red Robin stores by the end of 2020, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 20). Full Story
Torchy’s Tacos sold an additional stake to an investor group led by private-equity firm General Atlantic for about $400 million. The deal comes after Torchy’s opened 12 new restaurants in 2020, despite the pandemic, reported Bloomberg (Nov. 20). Full Story
In-N-Out opened eight new locations in 2020, including two locations in Colorado that were the first in the state, reported Forbes (Nov. 20). Full Story
Smashburger aims to open 40 or more stores in 2021, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 23). Full Story
Meanwhile, Smashburger is expanding its test of all-day breakfast at 10 units to 30, reported Restaurant Business Online (Nov. 24). Full Story
Tasty Restaurant Group will acquire a portfolio of 37 Pizza Hut restaurants. Full Story
California Pizza Kitchen emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after completing a financial restructuring that included a debt-for-equity transaction. Full Story
McDonald's McRib returned to menu boards across the nation Dec. 2, representing its first national return since 2012, reported AZ Central (Nov. 30). Full Story
Qdoba Mexican Grill inked a multi-unit deal with franchisee Karan Gogri to develop 10 restaurants in San Jose, CA, and five locations in San Diego, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 30). Full Story
Smoothie King is looking to expand in Chicago in 2021, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 30). Full Story
Smokey Bones’ virtual brand The Wing Experience relaunched with 50 flavors, reported FSR Magazine. Full Story
Dutch Bros. Coffee continues to expand at a rapid pace and now has 421 locations spread throughout nine western U.S. states and has grown in two key ways: via franchised and company-owned locations, reported Forbes (Dec. 1). Full Story
La Madeleine French Bakery & Café is opening its first-ever drive-thru location as well as a scratch-baking experience. Full Story
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria opened two satellite kitchens in partnership with Kitchen United, reported FSR Magazine (Dec. 1). Full Story
Jimmy John’s teamed up with DoorDash Inc. on a system that would let the sandwich chain’s own drivers distribute food via the delivery specialist’s app, reported Bloomberg (Dec. 2). Full Story
PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans is planning a rapid expansion throughout Florida with hopes to bring 187 locations within the next 10 years, reported QSR Magazine (Dec. 2). Full Story
Sun Capital Partners, the owner of Friendly’s and Smokey Bones restaurant chains, is accelerating its retreat from the casual-dining business, reported The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 3). Full Story
Muscle Maker Grill will open its eleventh ghost kitchen in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. Full Story
Wendy’s will begin a new community-based giving program to benefit 23 charitable organizations. Full Story
Jollibee will be opening 28 stores across the U.S. and Canada in 2021, as it works toward its goal of amassing 300 stores by 2024. Full Story
Subway partnered with ezCater for its online catering roll out, reported QSR Magazine (Dec. 3). Full Story
Domino’s is offering customers free access to steaming service EPIX NOW when they order online now through April 11, 2021. Full Story
Landry’s Inc. CEO Tilman Fertitta confirmed he’s considering returning parts of his restaurant and gaming business to the public markets, reported CNBC (Dec. 8). Full Story