TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Floridians are spending less at restaurants compared to pre-pandemic numbers. The findings are not terribly surprising, according to new research from the market analysts at Zenreach and Top Data.
The group's report estimated sales at Sunshine State eateries for the last two weeks were 11% below numbers in January. Florida ranked among the lowest in the nation, according to the data.
Below are the reduced numbers for spending at restaurants by state in December 2020 vs. January 2020:
- Idaho: Down 47%
- Massachusetts: Down 41%
- Rhode Island: Down 34%
- California: Down 29%
- New Jersey: Down 24%
- New Hampshire: Down 19%
- New York: Down 18%
- Connecticut: Down 17%
- Florida: Down 11%
- Michigan: Down 11%
- Nevada: Down 10%
- Pennsylvania: Down 7%
"Foot traffic is down across the board," said Zenreach CEO John Kelly. "Restaurants have been very hard hit, event spaces have practically gone to zero."
Like the rest of the nation, Florida closed much of its economy in the spring to slow the spread of COVID-19, easing the burden on hospitals. Business for restaurants slowed to a trickle as many spots relied exclusively on delivery or curbside options.
Though the state has since reopened, Kelly believed the weakened tourism industry has helped deflate Florida's restaurant spending. Places like Washington, meanwhile, have had a spending increase over January.
"What we've seen across the board is that consumers are just more cautious right now," Kelly said. "Even in the optimistic states, like Florida, consumers have hesitated to go into a retail or restaurant environment."
Kelly expected the slowdown to continue for at least three to six more months until vaccines become more widely available.
It's a blow not just to operators and their employees but the state of Florida as well.
Lawmakers expect weakened sales across the tourism and hospitality industries will account for a $2.7 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year. State senators and representatives will need to come up with financial fixes in the forthcoming legislative session, set to start in March.
In the meantime, the next federal stimulus bill is likely to help keep struggling restaurants afloat. The $900 billion package offers most Americans another stimulus check, more Paycheck Protection Program opportunities, and tax benefits.
In a statement, Florida's Restaurant and Lodging Association said last week the legislation was vital.
"The value to our members cannot be overstated," said Carol Dover, President, and CEO of the FRLA. "Simply put, for many, this means the survival of their business and the livelihood of their employees."
Despite wanting a boost to the $600 stimulus checks, preferring $2,000, President Donald Trump approved the legislation earlier this week.