Va. restaurants to lose over $1.3 billion in April from pandemic restrictions

Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 8:19 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After over a month of statewide stay-at-home restrictions following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March the National Restaurant Association says that the foodservice industry is poised to lose more than $1.3 billion in sales for April if trends continue through the month.

“When your hotels in Richmond are basically shut down or have minimal occupancy, that spills over to the restaurant industry,” Eric Terry said. “It’s the same thing with tourism and attractions, the whole microcosm of travel is impacted by each one of them. If you can’t get an air seat to come in, you can’t get a hotel room to come in and you can’t get a meal it really impacts all facets of it so there’s no one single piece that stands alone Richmond tourism industry is a very integrated business.”

Eric Terry President The Virginia Lodging, Restaurant, and Travel Association (VLRTA) say the restaurant industry has been the hardest hit aspect of tourism in the state.

“It’s been devastating to the restaurant industry,” Terry said., “We’ve had almost 78 percent of our employees have been furloughed or laid off from restaurants and a number of closures of those kinds are stacking up each day, some of which are permanent closures here in the Richmond area.”

According to the VLRTA, after surveying over 6,500 restaurants, 94 percent of Virginia restaurant operators have laid off or furloughed employees since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Twenty-one percent of operators anticipate laying off or furloughing additional employees during the next 30 days. Among restaurant operators that laid off or furloughed employees, the average reduction was 83 percent of the restaurant’s total staff. The National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 237,000 restaurant employees in Virginia have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March - representing at least 78 percent of the 305,000 employees that were working at Virginia’s eating and drinking places in February.

99 percent of Virginia restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume during the period from April 1 to April 10 was lower it was during the same period in 2019.

On average, restaurant operators reported a 77 percent decline in sales during the period from April 1 to April 10. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the Virginia restaurant and foodservice industry will lose more than $1.3 billion in sales in April if the trends continue throughout the month.

“We’ve had an almost 83 percent drop in our lodging revenues compared to this time last year and we’ve had over 140 hotels close. Almost 13 percent of rooms and inventory are closed as of now,” said Terry.

Terry says business travel is one of the hearts of the lodging industry that may take longer for the lodging industry to bounce back.

“When you look at our lodging numbers out of state right now, places like Northern Virginia, Fairfax County, Crystal City, they’ve probably been the most impacted because of the lack of government travel and business travel,” said Terry. “Virginia Beach for example and the Hampton roads area has faired a little bit better not because of people who are leisure travelers, but because there’s still some essential travel from the military.”

Terry says the VLRTA is also working with the Virginia Department Health on programs that can be created to assist the Restaurant Association and instill confidence back in consumers once the pandemic is over.

The Restaurant Association is also working on some nationwide campaigns so hopefully between the national campaigns and what we do here in Virginia we can ensure people of some visible signs of sanitation and programs that restaurants and hotels can do so when people see those, there going to feel more confident and say ‘OK this is a place I feel safe to go into, Terry said.’"

To mitigate those losses Terry says the VLRTA will be relying heavily on advertising which the Virginia Tourism Corporations plays an integral part in. Andrew Cothern with the Virginia Tourism Corporation says that they’ve been marketing digital destinations." Corporation Communications manager Andrew Cothern says the state has been pushing it’s digital destinations since the Pandemic began back in March.

“We are doing anything and everything we can to help these attractions out,” Cothern said. “We have links to educational resources for parents of children who want new ways to educate their children, we have articles for virtual tours for people to explore attractions while they’re at home.”

Terry expects it may take around 12-18 months for Virginia tourism to fully bounce back because of the number of summer programs, and sporting events that have been canceled or post opened, but he adds that Virginia might have an easier time recovering than other states because it’s tourism in depends largely on driving rather than flying.

“The Virginia tourism business has a tremendous amount of drive-in business so as a result that probably rebounds quicker than a place that’s more fly in business like Las Vegas,” Terry said. “I think we have a good opportunity to get people back in traveling, but we’ve got to start right away and we’ve got to make sure the state maintains the same amount of marketing budget.”

“We feel that people are going to want to get out of their homes and start traveling again and Virginia will be hearing waiting for them,” Cothern said.

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