A surge of new COVID-19 cases across the country has prompted several states to temporarily reverse or pause their plans to reopen restaurants. Governors in Washington, California, Florida and Texas are walking back some of their reopening plans as new COVID-19 cases jumped by at least five percent over the previous week in 37 states across the country.
The number of new daily COVID-19 cases across the nation rose by 42 percent over the past week to an average of 38,200 on Sunday. The number of global cases has now topped ten million, with the US reporting roughly a quarter of the cases.
In Texas, restaurant dining rooms may remain open but are restricted to 50 percent capacity beginning this week. Dining rooms had previously been allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity.
North Carolina extended its 50 percent capacity limit for an additional three weeks. Louisiana will remain in the second phase of its reopening plan, which limits dining rooms to 50 percent occupancy, for another month. Maine’s 50 percent limit will also remain in place.
Nevada will keep capacity at a level that allows for six-foot social distancing between tables. Indoor dining in New Jersey, which originally was scheduled to resume this week, has been delayed indefinitely.
The surge in cases impacted restaurant recovery, according to The NPD Group. Customer transactions at major US restaurant chains declined 13 percent year-over-year in the week ending June 21, slightly better than the 12 percent decline in the previous week. It marked the first time since mid-April that there has not been an improvement in the year-over-year trend.
“The US restaurant industry’s road to recovery is going to have some bumps along the way,” said David Portalatin, food industry adviser at The NPD Group. “The pandemic isn’t over and as often mentioned is ‘unprecedented’ so there is no road map.”
The steepest drops were reported in states with the highest number of new COVID-19 cases. Arizona and North Carolina saw a five-point decline in year-over-year transactions. Customer transactions in Florida and Nevada fell two points and four points, respectively, and were flat in California and Texas.
Full-service restaurants saw a slight improvement, with year-over-year transactions declining 24 percent compared to the 26 percent decline in the week ending June 14. Transactions at quick-service restaurants fell by 12 percent, compared to 11 percent in the prior week.
Despite the setback, the number of restaurant units allowed to resume dine-in service increased to 79 percent from 74 percent.