The purpose of this report is to give a historical context to the current state of the restaurant industry in Georgia. Restaurants make up a very significant portion of the Georgia economy. With more than 18,000 locations, restaurants create 480,000 jobs and generate an estimated $22.9 Billion in sales annually. We’ll cover the state of the industry in Georgia, and walk through every stage of the pandemic as the industry recovered to where it is today.
By March 13th, restaurant reservations numbers had already begun to plummet due to the virus. On that day President Trump declared a state of national emergency, causing the number of reservations to drop even further. Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an order six days later on March 19th, shutting down restaurant dining rooms, bars and gyms. By March 23rd, restaurant reservations in Georgia (and the US) had reached virtually zero.
On March 24th, Governor Kemp mandated that Bars and Nightclubs statewide must close. One week later on April 3rd he enacted a statewide “Shelter in Place” executive order that mandated that dine-in services cease until at least April 13th. Restaurants could remain open, as long as they only served takeout or delivery.
Due to these restrictions, casual dining restaurant chains (think Olive Garden, O’ Charley’s, Chili’s) saw at their worst a 72% drop in customers. Bars that did decide to stay open for take-out food only saw a similar drop of 63%.
Fast Food Restaurants – Unaffected by the shutdown
A portion of the industry that was relatively unaffected was the fast food industry. Unlike its counterparts, fast food chains saw a much shallower decline in customer foot traffic after the national emergency was declared; dropping at its worst only 20%. Fast food was also able to recover much faster than the rest of the industry, being able to quickly adapt to take out and drive through only. By May 1st, it had already recovered to pre-corona levels of foot traffic and has stayed there ever since.
Restaurant Reopening Timeline
Restaurants were allowed to reopen their dine in areas on April 27th in accordance with Gov. Kemp’s executive order. The order came with some heavy stipulations. Obvious ones include: Requiring employees to wear face masks, screening employees for symptoms of COVID, and spacing out tables to maintain social distancing. Other stipulations include: Allowing only ten patrons per 500 square feet of dining room, closing all self service stations, limiting parties to no more than six people per table, and discontinuing salad bars and buffets.
Within two weeks of this mandate, foot traffic at casual dining chains increased 55% and continued to rise steadily well into June. Restaurant reservations also started coming back in, albeit much slower – climbing only 11% in the same two weeks.
On May 12th, Gov. Kemp created a new order that allowed more customers into a dining establishment. He upped the restriction from six to ten customers per table and increased the capacity for 10 patrons per 500 square feet to 10 patrons per 300 square feet.
One June 1st, Bars and Nightclubs in Georgia are allowed to reopen. They follow similar restrictions to restaurants, with a maximum capacity of 25 people or 35% of total occupancy. By this point, bars in the south are operating at 70% of what they were pre-coronavirus, and casual dining chains are operating at 61%.
One June 16th, Kemp released his most recent mandate on restaurants, removing the restrictions on restaurant capacity, allowing buffets under certain conditions, and once again upping bar capacity-this time to 50 people or 35% capacity. At this point, casual dining chains had capped out at 69% of pre-coronavirus numbers, and bars at 82%. Reservations are climbing as well, from virtually 0% at the end of April to 40% of pre-coronavirus numbers.
Current State of the industry
As of the time of writing, restaurant reservations have climbed to on average 61% of what they were pre-corona virus. Meanwhile, casual dining has climbed up to around 75% of their pre-coronavirus traffic and bars have hit 83%. The industry is definitely showing signs of recovery, and with the accelerated efforts by governor Kemp, the industry has stayed on average about 10% ahead of the national averages.
Sources and Additional Reading
All Atlanta restaurants, gyms, bars closed due to coronavirus
Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak
Georgia Governor Is Preparing an Order For Residents to ‘Shelter in Place’
Governor Kemp Issues Shelter in Place Order
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Releases Requirement Guidelines for Restaurants to Reopen Dining Rooms on Monday, April 27, 2020