While we’re all looking for some bright spots in the midst of this pandemic, some of that good news may come in baby steps. And as Minnesota looks at reopening dining rooms sometime after March 18, we can learn from states that have already opened up.
For instance, take the latest stats from Black Box Intelligence, a data and insights provider for the restaurant industry.
April’s same-store sales dropped by 55%, by it said a "silver lining is that the restaurant industry seems to have seen the worst of the sales decline and is beginning the long road towards recovery." Since most limited-service brands already are equipped to provide drive-thru or heavy volume of off-premise orders, they were able to retain some sales as consumers nationwide experienced lockdowns, the report said.
States allowing off-premise alcohol sales—Minnesotans got the green light on April 17 for beer and wine sales, but not cocktails—experienced a small positive impact on lost beverage sales, but overall, it only provided marginal improvements. Opening dining rooms is still key to recovery.
Early May data from Texas and Georgia indicates improvements in same-store sales by almost 30 percentage points, even though only 40% of Texas locations and 31% of Georgia restaurants opened up dining rooms so far, Black Box said.
Early data from the newly launched Black Box Intelligence Restaurant Recovery Sales Flash shows that in Texas for Saturday, May 2, (dining rooms were allowed to reopen May 1at 25% capacity), same-store sales for full-service restaurants was -36%, which is almost 30 percentage points better than the decline in sales recorded at the national level for that day.
Extending Dining into Parking Lots
Naples, Florida, which is a snowbird destination for Minnesotans, has allowed temporary use permits for restaurants to expand their patio dining into their parking lots.
The owners of Craft and Crew Hospitality reached out to Hospitality Minnesota in April for help getting use permits for Twin Cities restaurants. In its May 7 member update, Hospitality MN’s Liz Rammer said:
"Last week, we reached out to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to promote restaurants’ ability to expand their outdoor seating to parking lots (and other spaces) once allowed to open. MDH cleared the concept as long as local governments approve. Our members have been advocating and Duluth is already on its way. Minneapolis and St. Louis Park are also exploring this. If you want assistance pushing your city to adopt similar provision contact firstname.lastname@example.org
And one last, good news note
Pinterest, the lifestyle social media site, released its findings on consumer searches and what they mean. The white paper is for "brands who need to plan for the future…brought to you by the place where people plan for the future."
According to the paper, guests to the site are moving through the phases from wanting triage information to escapism to planning for the future. Due to the uptick in searches for future events (from wedding gowns to vacations to return to summer parties), which means that people want to start planning to return to old patterns, but they are looking toward the future, so in your advertising, don’t rush them, but do let them see a bright future at your restaurant or resort.