Feb 24, 2022 - Business

Restaurant data serves up good and bad news

Family eating at a restaurant
Chicagoans dine at Daley's restaurant in Woodlawn in January. Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Local restaurants are asking for more pandemic relief the same week a new national report says restaurant sales are on the rebound.

Why it matters: Restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, but dining and takeout/delivery saw big gains at the end of 2021.

  • Toast's Restaurant Trends Report used aggregated sales data from restaurants on its platform to find that 4th-quarter sales in 2021 were 52% above 2020 levels and 4% above pre-pandemic levels.
  • This surge even includes a December that saw the Omicron variant forcing tighter restrictions on indoor spaces.

Methodology: The report looked at regions, not states or cities, so this data is a reflection of the entire Midwest. Other findings include:

  • Dining out: Up 55% over 2020.
  • Quick service restaurants: Up 30% over 2020.
  • Takeout and delivery: Up 59% over pre-pandemic levels.

Yes, but: Chicago restaurants still lost customers during Omicron. According to an Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) survey, 58% of businesses reported their sales decreased by more than 50% in December 2021.

  • "Everyone will tell you that during the last three or four months, we've seen our business fall off drastically," chef Rick Bayless told Fox 32 in early February.

Driving the news: The IRC is asking President Biden and both U.S. senators to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund established in 2021.

What they're saying: "Many restaurants and bars are fending off bankruptcy filings and eviction notices every day while doing everything they can to keep their businesses running," IRC executive director Erika Polmar tells Axios.

  • "There is not much time left."

What's next: With the indoor mask mandate being lifted next week, restaurants are hopeful pre-pandemic dining levels will return.

💭 Justin's thought bubble: I used Resy to look for reservations for next Saturday. A quick anecdotal survey of 10 top restaurants revealed zero openings.

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