Survey: More than 40% of Indiana restaurant operators fear viability

More than four out of 10 restaurant operators in Indiana say it is unlikely they will still be in business six months from now if current business conditions continue, according to survey released Tuesday by the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The state-specific survey results, taken from a larger survey by the National Restaurant Association conducted Aug. 26-Sept. 1, show the seven-month-old COVID-19 health emergency is still taking a big toll on the restaurant industry even though restrictions have been eased.

In most of Indiana, restaurants have been able to operate their dining rooms at 75% capacity since early July, with bar seating at 50% capacity. Marion County has mandated more restrictive policies through much of that period. The county limits indoor dining at restaurants to 50% capacity and to 25% indoor table seating at bars and nightclubs.

Survey results show that most Indiana restaurant operators are seeing decreased sales volumes, preventing them from returning staffing to pre-pandemic levels.

“Our industry is doing everything it can to stay afloat, take care of their employees and continue to serve their communities, but bluntly, they can only do so much and for so much longer,” Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in written remarks. “They desperately need additional relief from the government and continued patronage of their establishments from both a dine-in and carryout perspective.”

Tamm said restaurant operators who were able to pick up business by offering more outdoor dining are especially concerned now that the weather is turning colder.

“It will be near impossible to operate like this with colder weather on the way and little outdoor seating options,” Tamm said. “We have not begun the healing process, and without relief, many currently and previously in the hospitality industry will be or will continue to be unemployed.”

Other survey results for Indiana:

– 46% of operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government.

– 88% say total dollar sales volume in August was lower than in August 2019. Overall, sales were down 37% on average.

– 51% say total operational costs (as a percent of sales) are higher than they were prior to the pandemic. Only 22% say their costs are lower.

– 64% say off-premises sales currently represent a higher proportion of total business than they did prior to the outbreak.

– 34% say business conditions in August were worse than they were in July, while only 15% say business conditions improved in August.

– 66% say they don’t expect sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels within six months.

– 43% do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-pandemic levels within six months.

– On average, Indiana restaurant operators say their current staffing levels are only 70% of what they would typically be in the absence of COVID-19.

– 41% say they added employees in July and August, while 20% say they laid off or furloughed employees in July and August.

– 26% say they plan to add employees during the next 30 days, while 21% say they anticipate laying off or furloughing more employees during the next 30 days.

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