For their part, most restaurant operators do not expect a rapid return to a normal business environment, according to a National Restaurant Association survey conducted February 2-10, 2021.

Overall, 32% of operators think it will be 7-12 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant, while 29% think it will be more than a year. An additional 10% of operators say business conditions will never return to normal for their restaurant. 

It’s important to note that a return to normal business conditions does not necessarily mean a full recovery to pre-coronavirus sales levels. Rather, it reflects an operational environment that doesn’t include indoor dining restrictions, as well as a vaccinated populace that feels confident going out to public places.

On the segment level, fine dining operators envision the longest timeline to a normal operating environment. Seventy-one percent of fine dining operators think it will be at least 7 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant. Eight percent don’t think it will ever happen.

While the time horizon is somewhat shorter for limited-service operators, it still won’t happen overnight. Only 3 in 10 quickservice and fast casual operators – and 39% of coffee and snack concept operators – think business conditions will return to normal within the next 6 months.

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.

Source: National Restauant Association