- Eighty-three percent of Americans plan to dine out during the holiday season and 84% of restaurant operators expect to meet or exceed pre-pandemic sales levels during this timeframe, according to Lightspeed data emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- Forty-six percent of operators said they expect to return to pre-COVID-19 sales levels during the holidays, while 38% said they expect to exceed pre-COVID-19 levels. Thirty-three percent of operators expect corporate holiday parties to make a comeback during the holidays.
- Gift card sales may also give operators a boost this season, with 43% of diners in the U.S. planning to purchase a restaurant gift card, per Lightspeed data. National Restaurant Association research shows 62% of consumers want a gift card to their favorite restaurant for the holidays.
Consumer confidence may have increased relative to 2020, as a majority of U.S. adults are now vaccinated. Recent data shows a clearer picture of the devastation COVID-19 wrought on businesses, but there is still pent-up demand for dining experiences. About 43% of consumers plan to spend on experiences this holiday season, according to research from consulting firm Accenture.
To take advantage of an expected sales bump during the holidays, some operators are asking for loosened restrictions. The Hawaii Restaurant Association, for example, is asking the state to allow 75% capacity in dining rooms as an interim step to 100% capacity. The association has also requested the ability to open dining rooms and outside seating to both vaccinated and unvaccinated customers.
This forecast demand is welcome news for the industry as many restaurants struggle to make up for the past year and a half of lost sales, labor problems and supply chain shortages. A new poll from Alignable shows that 66% of restaurant operators say they need more help from national policymakers to drive their recoveries. Last week, 166 members of Congress signed a letter to President Joe Biden advocating for a refill of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Labor pressures remain, however, and high off-premise demand may make it difficult for operators to navigate a surge in sales. Such pressures are contributing to an all-time-high quit rate throughout the industry, forcing some operators to trim hours.
The industry could get an additional boost from high gift card sales, however, as consumers plan to spend 55% of their gifting budgets on gift cards this holiday season. Over 80% of consumers who redeem their gift cards at fine dining and fast casual restaurants spend more than the value of that card when using one.
Restaurants may also find a lift from an increase in catering orders this year. According to Lightspeed's research, 29% of Americans plan to order catering for a holiday celebration, in addition to the 39% of consumers who plan to host a party for family/friends at a restaurant or bar and the 31% who plan to host a corporate event at a restaurant or bar. Catering orders are larger and bring in more revenue, but they can put additional stress on labor to fulfill large orders, particularly during peak hours.