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Measuring Operators’ Outlook During the COVID-19 Crisis

The foodservice operator community represents a pretty diverse collection of businesses. So, it comes as no surprise that how concerned an operator is about whether the COVID-19 crisis will break their business varies by segment.

For example, 19% of restaurants feel very nervous their operations will not be able to return to business, per a study from Datassential. Sixty-seven percent of restaurant operators are fairly confident their business can weather the coronavirus storm, while 14% are cautiously optimistic their businesses will emerge stronger than before.

In contrast, 7% of on-site foodservice providers such as healthcare and school feeders are very nervous about the future of their businesses, per the Datassential report. And 64% are worried but feel their businesses will get through this, while 29% of on-site operators feel their businesses will emerge from this stronger than before.

Overall, 30% of foodservice operators have completely closed their operations for the time being, per Datassential, while 65% remain open by offering takeout and delivery. Only 5% of operators remain open for business completely. Taking a closer look at these stats, though reveals additional interesting contrasts between restaurants and on-site foodservice providers. When looking at what percent of operators had closed completely, 35% of on-site feeders had done so, compared to 25% of restaurants. When it comes to staying open by offering delivery and/or takeout, 74% of restaurants are traveling this route compared to 56% of on-site feeders. And 9% of on-site feeders say they are completely open for business compared to 1% of restaurants.

What both operator segments can agree upon, though, is that the industry will continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 for quite some time. Along those lines, 61% of the operators participating in the Datassential study feel it will take 3 to 6 months for things to get back to normal, while 26% feel things will be back to normal in 30 to 45 days. Interestingly, 13% feel this will be the industry’s new normal. (Datassential released the data from this study on April 3, 2020.) Not surprisingly, healthcare foodservice operators see this as a longer-term issue, given how close they are to the medical news of the day.

The one thing all operators do agree on, per the Datassential study, is the need for help. For example, 41% of restaurants would appreciate help compared to 32% of on-site foodservice providers. In addition, 42% of restaurants could use help but not from manufacturers or suppliers, compared to 33% of on-site operators who feel the same. And 35% of on-site operators say they don’t need help and are confident in the next steps, compared to just 17% of restaurants that feel the same way.

Digging a little deeper, 73% of restaurant operators feel federal/state relief help from employees would be beneficial compared to 55% of on-site operators. Roughly 46% of all operators feel suppliers not having minimal order requirements would be helpful.