Consumers love to feast on sports and food—and the restaurant industry learned long ago that pairing the two is a powerful way to score big business. Sports with a side order of food (and vice versa) is a surefire way to bring stadium-capacity crowds of sports fans to the table for special promotions and limited time offers.
Even as the road to recovery opens up, the pandemic continues to have its twists and turns for foodservice operators. The light at the end of the tunnel has turned into a summer swell of foot traffic returning to restaurants. With restrictions lifting as the temperature rises, consumers seem more likely to make reservations than have reservations about dining in.
If the pandemic has seemed to consist of nothing but a plateful of problems, the table is now being reset with plenty of reasons for optimism.
COVID-19 vaccines are becoming increasingly available, and all adults (ages 18 and up) should be eligible to receive them by May 1.1 The recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill contains $28.6 billion in restaurant relief. Known as the American Rescue Plan, the new law’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund provides the relief debt-free to small and midsize restaurants.2 And consumers will now have more money to spend on foodservice. Individual Americans making under $75,000 a year and households with incomes under $150,000 will receive stimulus checks of $1,400.2
Leave it to a pandemic to build up the market’s appetite for foodservice. At one point, eating out at a restaurant ranked as the most looked-forward-to post-quarantine activity, according to the market research firm Technomic.1 But as infection rates rise, it should come as no surprise that consumer confidence in returning to pre-pandemic activities is falling.
As if there weren’t already enough incentive to maintain the momentum for takeout and delivery, the pandemic keeps pushing off-premises to the forefront of foodservice. As COVID-19 resurfaces at record levels in reopened states, restaurant operators again find themselves navigating this all-too-familiar roadblock on the road back to dine-in traffic.