The One Chart Restaurateurs Should Worry About
US restaurant bookings have stalled in the last four and half months despite two-thirds of the country fully vaxxed and the economy roaring back, fueled by unprecedented amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus.
High-frequency data, provided by OpenTable, shows US restaurant bookings have yet to make a new high since June. Bookings have made a remarkable recovery from the COVID low in the spring of 2020 through the mid-point of this year but have languished in the back half and remain slightly below pre-COVID levels. Restaurateurs should keep note of the chart below:
It’s understandable that fears of COVID variants this summer might have played a role in stalling restaurant bookings, but since Sept. 13, the 7-day moving average of new COVID cases has plunged. Still, bookings have yet to surge but instead seem to be moving lower.
Even with 64% of the country fully vaxxed, bookings have stalled and could move lower, suggesting that consumer sentiment could be the problem.
Last week, the UMich sentiment survey showed that preliminary consumer sentiment data for October slipped as more Americans grew more concerned about current conditions and economic outlook.
One major problem is consumer inflation expectations for the next year surged to their highest since 2008 (as longer-term inflation expectations dipped). Higher inflation could be impacting family budgets and means restaurant spending is being slashed.
If consumers have learned anything from the pandemic shutdowns, they can cook at home and save a bunch of money rather than eating out. This trend could become more permanent and dampen the restaurant industry’s recovery through winter as inflation bites.
Tue, 10/19/2021 – 21:45