New Report Finds Restaurant Hours Still Haven't Recovered From COVID

Precautionary lockdowns across the nation sent massive waves through countless industries when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. And one of the industries most affected was the restaurant industry.

One of the most persistent symptoms of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry is the consistent absence of workers. CNN reports that as recently as February, job reports were showing that much of the industry hadn't recovered. In January, worker absences were in part the cause of supply shortages in grocery stores as well. QSR magazine adds that many restaurants were launching incentives to draw workers back with increased tipping opportunities as well. Many restaurants were forced to lay off their work force in 2020, and it seems that it still hasn't fully returned.

Another toll of the worker shortage was reduced hours at many restaurants. Last year, PennLive said many restaurants were forced to cut their hours due to limited staffing. Without enough employees, it was impossible for many restaurants to maintain their normal hours of operation. Fortune adds that even major chains like McDonald's and Starbucks were unable to staff their locations adequately for their normal hours.

Now, a report from Datassential is showing that many restaurants are still open fewer hours than they were in 2019.

Restaurants reduced operations by 6 hours on average

According to Datassential, restaurants are open an average of 6.4 hours less than they before the pandemic. The data analysis firm says that this change is the result of many new challenges for the industry. Restaurants have been disproportionately affected by the persistent worker shortage, even as we approach the three-year anniversary of lockdowns in the U.S.

Restaurants have also been impacted by the changes in other industries, and consumer patterns as well. Datassential says that an increase in work-from-home opportunities, less desire for new restaurants, and a habit for many consumers to stay at home rather than go out to eat has contributed as well.

On average, the states that had stricter lockdowns have seen greater reductions in restaurant hours. Washington D.C. saw average restaurant hours shrink by 12 hours, while New York and Minnesota were just over nine hours each. The only state that saw growth was Alaska.

While consumers might feel like things have returned to pre-pandemic norms, the restaurant industry is still struggling to return to the good old days.