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Restaurant Industry: A Diary of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact

Posted by Dave

During the month of March 2020, we posted results of the Mirus Index on social media to keep restaurant operators informed on what is happening at an industry level. This article is intended to be a diary of observations related to how COVID-19 is changing the restaurant world from our perspective. We will update this every few days during this pandemic to keep multi-unit restaurant operators informed of the bigger picture.

What's the Mirus Index?

Mirus Index is a measurement of same store sales and traffic across the Mirus client base. This data comes directly from thousands of restaurants across the country and includes data from every type of restaurant - from ice cream stands to fine dining. Sourcing the data directly from these restaurants protects accuracy.

Over the past decade the Mirus Index has been in sync with the larger benchmark measurements. It only includes restaurants that are open each day this year, and the same days from the previous year - something Mirus calls Matching logic. So, if a restaurant was completely shut down yesterday but was open last year, it is not included in the Index. The effect is to understate the negative in the current pandemic.

March 19, 2020

The restaurant sales impact of COVID-19 continues to get worse through March 18. For background purposes, the following picture shows what Mirus Index was reporting during the first two months of the year. The results were very encouraging given the sales trends over the past few years. February was softer than January, but this was the best start to a year for the industry in years.

Jan and Feb 2020 - Mirus Index

The last two weeks of February may contain some effect from COVID-19 in a few markets but the impact to the overall industry was small. Things started changing in March, and for many restaurants the decline in sales and customer traffic drove the industry negative on or around March 3rd.

By March 16, several cities, counties, and some states ordered restaurants closed for dine-in eating, and some cities shut down restaurant operations totally. The news of new restrictions on restaurants continues through the date of this posting.

If you are a restaurant operator and your restaurants are fully operational today, you are considered lucky. We have evidence that some restaurant brands are actually seeing a small bump in sales compared to last year, mostly in locations with drive-thru operations.

Since March 1, sales and traffic have plummeted. As mentioned earlier, these measurements do not include restaurants who have ceased operations this month. Overall, we are measuring a decline in total restaurants sales around <75%> versus the same time last year.

March 2020 - Mirus Index

I feel disappointed in the local, state and federal governments with a bias against restaurant operators. There are a range of restrictions we see across the country. In some cities, restaurants can operate takeout and delivery, and others have forced complete closures, yet they allow grocery stores to operate with hundreds of people standing in line to check out.

In the US, half of the food dollars are spent in restaurants. The effect of these edicts/decrees/statues is to push the dollars that ordinarily would be spent in restaurants into the grocery vertical. I question whether grocery is any less safe than a restaurant, and I am sure the grocery chains are happy with a huge increase in their revenues.

Hopefully, cities and states with rethink their rules and allow restaurants to operate with reduced occupancy to maintain social distancing. Restaurants are trained to clean, and I believe most are able to maintain a safe environment, or at least as safe as a grocery store.

We all have a voice, and I ask you to consider letting your mayor and state government officials know that you want your local restaurants to be allowed to re-open.

Stay tuned in for updates!

Media Contact - marketing@mirus.com

About Mirus:

Mirus provides services in data management and solutions in custom reporting for the restaurant industry.

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Topics: Restaurant Profit, Restaurant Operations, Restaurant Finance

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