Thousands of restaurants and service industry businesses are preparing for massive expansion as the pandemic stops running rampant. While the virus is by no means gone, the advent of vaccines has given us some form of control over the spread, meaning that businesses that were initially major financial victims of the virus can once again look to make profit.
This expansion isn't limited to America – there has been a global wave of restaurants announcing their intention to open up or expand. Whether or not all these plans will come to fruition or success is obviously up in the air, but the fact that it's even in the conversation is a great sign.
It's no secret that the pandemic had a massive impact on the economy. Millions of people lost their jobs, entire businesses fell through, and people are still struggling to make ends meet over a year after the initial hit. However, this restaurant boom may be a promising sign that things are returning to normal, whatever normal looks like now.
Why Are Restaurants Expanding?
COVID dealt a massive blow to the hospitality industry. Obviously, lockdowns were a brutal experience for any in-person business, but even once lockdowns were over, restaurants had a rough time getting people to come back in. The requirements for masks and the general social anxiety toward the virus meant that restaurants were struggling to make ends meet, although contactless tech did help reassure nervous patrons.
However, while the virus is still very much around, with fresh variations popping up seemingly every week, we do have more of a grip on it than ever. With vaccines and social awareness, we've made it far easier to go to restaurants, cafes, and bars. And slowly but surely, they're starting to recover.
According to the annual Yelp Economic Average report, more than 9,000 restaurants and food businesses opened in Q3 2021 in the US. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is markedly more than last year, and shows the industry getting back to strength.
This isn't as hugely positive as it sounds, however. It's definitely a great sign that the economy is recovering, but a lot of this expansion is being done by already established businesses. For example, if Mom and Pop's Pasta Place went under during the pandemic, businesses like Arby's or Applebee's, who were able to weather the storm, are now able to scoop up those locations, which are already installed with kitchens and other services, and add them to their already massive franchises.
This is best shown in a quote by Mario Herman, franchise litigation attorney from Washington D.C.
“I think anytime you have a crisis, you have an opportunity. The theory of creative destruction applies here. … [There is] opportunity to take over an existing business that is failing because of COVID, and if you have the resources and capacity to be able to withstand this it's a great opportunity to come in and start buying these things up.”
While this is a great sign for overall economic growth, it's not the best sign for small businesses, as the market share leans even further in the direction of the larger franchises.
What Does This Mean for the Economy?
The economy is such a nebulous beast that no one can really be sure which way it will go day by day. However, it's hard to frame multiple businesses opening and expanding as anything but a good sign for the economy.
When you think about the biggest industries in the world, the first ones that jump to the forefront of your mind would probably be pharmaceuticals, oil, or even Hollywood. However, restaurants employ 10% of American citizens, and are responsible for an economic impact of over $2 trillion a year in the US alone.
Keep in mind that these figures don't include other food services, like supermarkets – this is just for restaurants. The fact that restaurants are starting to gain financial footing is a great sign that at least one major facet of the economy is coming back to its pre-COVID state.
What to Do if You Run a Restaurant
It's by no means too late to ride this wave! If you own a restaurant, or even feel motivated to take the first step into opening one, this is a great time to invest in your business's future.
One thing to nail down is your point of sale system (POS). This is a crucial piece of gear for any business, as it allows you to process payments and orders from customers in a centralized piece of equipment. And with the pandemic still looming over us, many more customers will be looking to use contactless payments and QR code-based ordering, all of which is easier to do through a POS system.
Another thing you'll want is a website. Nowadays you'll be hard pressed to find a restaurant without some form of online presence. And with the amount of website builders on the market, it's never been easier to make an appealing (some might say appetizing) website to entice potential customers. And if you're going to create a site for your restaurant, check out our invaluable design tips.