As suspected, restaurants have been responding to rising costs and staffing shortages by cutting hours, according to new data from Datassential. The new research surveyed restaurant hours nationally and found that the average restaurant is now open for 6.4 fewer hours per than it was three years prior, which points to a decline of roughly 7.5%.
While this data might sound alarming, it is not particularly surprising given the challenges restaurants still face in a post-pandemic world and how the industry landscape has changed dramatically since the “before times.” According to Datassential, there are multiple factors even beyond dwindling employees that have forced the change in operating hours. Demand for in-person dining has declined since the pandemic and people are home more often than ever before, thanks to two years of lockdown habits and a shift to a work-from-home model.
Here are some eye-opening takeaways from the Datassential report:
- Independents are hit the hardest—Independent restaurants closed an average of 7.5 hours a week more in 2022 than in 2019, while large national chains are only operating four fewer hours per week these days.
- Casual dining also took a massive hit—Chalk it up to people sitting at home more often, ordering takeout and not dining at their favorite neighborhood restaurant. Casual-dining restaurants are closed nearly nine hours per week more in 2022 than in 2019, while fine dining appears to be the least affected group at just a 3.5-hour-per-week loss. This makes sense, especially given the economic climate when people are more likely to only dine out for special occasions than regular outings.
- Breakfast chains have also been closing earlier—Three out of the top five restaurant chains that lost the most operating hours were breakfast chains, including Denny’s IHOP, and Einstein Bros. Bagels (the other two were Texas Roadhouse and Subway), which might point to people having breakfast at home now with hybrid and work-from-home schedules.
- Only one state saw longer business hours this year—Restaurants in Alaska are open 2.7 hours more per week in 2022 than in 2019, while the rest of the country suffers from shorter restaurant hours, especially Washington, D.C. (-12.5 hours), Vermont (-11.3 hours), Maine (-9.8 hours), New York (-9.5 hours), and Connecticut (-9.2 hours). In fact, the rate of restaurants closing early falls roughly along political lines, with red states being much less likely to close earlier.
- Most restaurants close by 9:00 p.m.—Less than half of restaurants nationally are open past 9 p.m. whereas before the pandemic, that number was closer to 62%. Many restaurants are closing their doors by 8 or 9 p.m. instead of the typical 10:00 p.m. we saw before the pandemic, especially in many urban areas.
- New York City has lost the most dining hours—Although it’s known as the city that never sleeps, apparently the late-night dwellers will have to do without midnight munchies. Out of the top 15 zip codes that had the largest weekly decline in restaurant operating hours, 12 were in New York City (the other three were also major metropolitan areas in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans). This might say more about how New York City restaurants were once known for their almost European late-night dining culture where the dinner rush usually started around 8:00, and now the post-pandemic reality has forced restaurants to rein it in.
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