Restaurant sales are recovering, and higher-end chains are having some of the best recoveries of all.
Based on foot traffic analysis from Placer.ai, pricier and less casual chains are recovering fastest. Darden Restaurant’s chains are doing particularly well compared to the same period in 2019. Darden is the parent company of Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and a few other chains.
Longhorn Steakhouse visits were above 2019 levels in April, May, and June, growing each month to an 18.9% increase in June. Capital Grille, which is also owned by Darden, was up 19.8% over 2019 visits in June after being behind in April and modest gains in May. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood saw the largest increase over 2019 levels at 28.5% in June.
The trend among the top-performing restaurants shows a huge jump in recovery this summer. Of the eight top restaurants monitored by Placer.ai, seven saw increases over the previous month in May and June. The only exception was Texas Roadhouse, which had nearly similar gains in each of the three months.
More casual chains, especially diners, are recovering much more slowly. Denny’s, IHOP, and Applebee’s were all still below 2019 levels into June.
Intuitively, the trend makes sense for dining. The pandemic was great for fast-food sales, which customers turned to for comfort in a challenging time, and these chains were already equipped with drive-thrus and takeout orders. Now, people are flocking back to the experiences that they couldn’t get during that period, like full-service dining.
The trend toward experiences and food exists at the very top of the industry, too. Two of the most expensive fine dining restaurants in the US both raised prices to nearly unheard of rates, $800 for a tasting and about $2,000 for dinner for two. Seats are booked up for over a month.
It’s unclear if less casual chain restaurants will keep their lead over diners and other casual restaurants, or if this is a temporary trend due to “hot vax summer.“
For Americans, early July marks Independence Day. This year, it also marks independence for hospitality workers.
A record number of hospitality workers are simply quitting their jobs with no intention of ever going back, declaring a certain kind of independence. And those still on the job just gained independence from daily housekeeping as Hilton announced this week that the service will only be performed upon request, Travel Weekly reported.
As hotel stays plummeted in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, daily housekeeping was one of the first services to be cut, but even as travel revived, it’s not coming back. It’s part of a wider trend within hospitality, the same publication previously reported, fueling the rise of third-party operators like New York-based Butler Hospitality, a “ghost kitchen” for room service. It’s one of the starkest examples of how the economy of 2021 will be different from the one of 2019.
The issue comes down to staffing. In March and April, as a record number of workers were quitting their jobs, the quit rate for hospitality workers actually increased, along with job openings. That means hospitality firms were trying their hardest to hire just as more of their workers were deciding to leave.
As Bloomberg Opinion columnist Conor Sen wrote on Twitter: This is a job that just “won’t exist in the future because it’s uneconomical.” In other words, you’re going to have to make your own hotel bed.
Here’s what today’s economy is finding it just doesn’t need.
Daily housekeeping service and breakfasts at hotels
Before Hilton’s announcement that housekeeping was a thing of the past, Baird analyst Michael Bellisario told The Washington Post that many hotels were considering permanent cuts to a range of services, including cleaning but also free breakfasts.
The new American consumer doesn’t mind too much, as reflected by an August 2020 survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Almost two-thirds of travelers said daily housekeeping should be done without.
After the pandemic, contactless is what travelers want. Insider’s Michelle Gross reported in July 2020 that technology and safety will be paramount to the future hotel experience. Vanessa Ogle, CEO of hotel technology company Enseo, said, “Technology will be the bridge that enables and manages safety and cleanliness procedures and communicates those procedures to guests as well as associates.”
A Hilton spokesperson told Insider that daily housekeeping is available “upon request” in the US and will be automatically done on the fifth day of an extended stay. Visitors to the Hilton brands Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and LXR properties will still automatically receive daily housekeeping.
Menus at restaurants
The QR code could be the ATM machine of our day. Before ATMs, people would wait in line to get money out from a bank with the help of a bank teller. Today, many restaurants don’t use a physical menu, but instead instruct guests to access it via phone from a laminated QR code on the tabletop.
More automation means less cashiers, too, so be prepared to wait longer to pay for the food that you ordered on your phone. With the persistent rising trend of ordering to-go, there’s a chance you’ll have to wait for the restaurant staff to sort through their flood of online orders first, too. You could also end up eating more. Insider’s Grace Dean reported diners could feel less judged, and end up ordering a lot more food.
Dressing rooms at retail stores
During the year of lockdown, ecommerce took off and looks to be holding its gains. A report this week from a Deutsche Bank team led by Senior US Economist Brett Ryan found the online shopping trend that accelerated in 2020 “appears to be holding onto the pandemic gains,” meaning that shopping for clothes online could well be a sticky habit.
At the same time, Ryan’s team found consumer spending well above pre-pandemic levels for three straight months. That means a lot fewer brick-and-mortar stores where you can walk in and physically try on clothing. At the start of 2021, Coresight Research predicted 14% more store closures this year than last, meaning up to 10,000 stores will disappear.
Instead of more visits to more stores, think a lot of cardboard boxes piling up at your door instead. And probably a lot of returns of clothes that don’t quite fit.
[Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a reference to Butler Hospitality as a “ghost kitchen” third-party operator, not a room-cleaning service.]
Companies across the US are joining in the largest-ever vaccination effort by offering employees perks if they receive the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
Receiving the vaccine is voluntary, but most companies have strongly encouraged employees get the immunization when it’s their turn. The two-dose vaccines, one from Pfizer and BioNtech and the other from Moderna, were emergency approved in the US in December. Since then, almost 34 million people have received one or more doses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many states and localities have begun moving from the first phase of vaccinating health care workers and elderly living in long-term care facilities to immunizing front-line workers. With that, some companies are giving workers two to three hours of paid time off per dose received, and others are offering a stipend for employees who voluntarily get the shots when it’s their turn.
Recently, Publix, Petco and AT&T joined the growing list. Here’s the 18 Insider knows about so far:
Know of a company not on this list that’s offering employees time off, pay, or other perks to get vaccinated? Email Natasha, the reporter of this piece, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Target is offering workers up to four hours of paid time off to get both shots of the vaccine and will pay for Lyft rides up to $15 for employees needing transportation to and from their appointment.
2. Dollar General
The discount chain was the first major retailer to announce an incentive for workers to get vaccinated. Dollar General employees can earn up to four hours of pay for receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and will receive extra time off if they have an adverse reaction.
Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, and The Capital Grille, will offer workers four hours of paid time off, two hours per dose, Bloomberg reported. Employees must show proof of their vaccination to earn the time. The company doesn’t require the shots, but strongly encouraged workers to get them.
4. Shake Shack
The burger-and-shake restaurant chain will give workers 3 hours of pay per shot of the two-dose vaccine. Shake Shack didn’t mandate employees receive the vaccine but “strongly encouraged” it.
5. Noodles & Company
Workers will earn up to four hours of paid time off for receiving the vaccine, the company said in a Feb. 10 statement to Insider. The restaurant strongly recommended employees receive the vaccine but did not require it.
The grocer is giving employees a one-time $100 payment for getting the vaccine. On top of that, Kroger said it would give associates an added bonus of a $100 store card and 1,000 fuel points to “thank and reward” workers during the pandemic.
7. Trader Joe’s
The grocery retailer will offer all 50,000 employees two hours of pay per dose and allow for flexible scheduling so workers can make it to appointments.
The app will offer its US and Canada shoppers, who deliver groceries to customers, a $25 stipend to get vaccinated.
The German grocery chain is encouraging workers to get vaccinated by offering its US workers $200 in extra pay if they receive the immunization.
The fast food chain is giving workers four hours of pay for receiving the vaccine. Though getting the shots is not required, the company said it will connect employees with groups that can answer questions on the vaccination, Restaurant Business reported.
The coffee chain is offering workers two hours of pay per dose of the COVID-19 vaccine they receive.
Amtrak is allowing employees to get vaccinated during work hours, and will pay for two hours off if employees provide proof they received the shot. Workers will also be excused with pay for up to 48 hours if they have side effects.
15. JBS USA and Pilgrim’s
The meat-packing company is offering employees a $100 bonus incentive if they receive the vaccine voluntarily.
The pet-supply retailer told Insider it would offer employees a one-time payment of $75 for getting vaccinated. Plus, it will give a $25 donation to the Petco Partner Assistance Fund for each person who receives their shots.
AT&T is giving employees up to four hours of paid time off per dose, adding up to eight hours total for anyone who needs the hours to get the vaccine, a spokesperson said in an email to Insider. The company is also giving workers access to Castlight, a tool to help them find available vaccines in their area based on eligibility.
Publix will give associates a $125 gift card to the store after they get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Workers aren’t required to get the shots at Publix, but they will need to show proof of vaccination. The vaccine is optional, though encouraged, the company said.
19. Walmart and Sam’s Club
Beginning May 18, Walmart and Sam’s Club will give its associates below the store manager level $75 for being fully vaccinated, the companies announced on May 14. Workers are required to show their vaccine card in order to receive this bonus.
Retailers and restaurants are poised to see a boost in Americans buying goods if President Joe Biden signs the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, as expected.
Apparel, home improvement, outdoor dining, and travel companies are set to benefit from Americans who receive the extra $1,400 in their bank accounts, analysts at Jefferies said in a Monday note.
After the last stimulus checks in January, retail sales that month saw an 8.9% bump, indicating consumers want to spend the extra dollars, Jefferies said. This time around, the checks, which in most cases are more than twice the amount of January’s, could boost sales once again.
Some retailers who didn’t see much of a lift in the last stimulus round because of the “dead of winter” will likely benefit this time because of the spring season. With the nice weather, home-improvement projects and outdoor dining will be on the rise, so Home Depot, Lowe’s, Olive Garden-owner Darden Restaurants, and Outback Steakhouse-owner Bloomin’ Brands are poised to benefit. Apparel stores such as Ross and Burlington Coat Factory also will see a bump, per the report.
The January spending bill increased Americans’ year-over-year spending 20%, according to Bank of America research. Those who received the checks also spent 30% more on their credit cards than people who didn’t. Value-based retailers, like Walmart, Kohl’s, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General, saw an increase from the January checks, and they’ll “see outsized benefits” this time around, too, Jefferies said.
Companies most affected by shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago were department, clothing, and shoe stores, along with restaurants and furniture stores, Jefferies said. Those same companies are now likely to “generate the most opportunistic areas for spring 2021 stimulus benefit,” the note said.
One survey, however, wasn’t as optimistic that spending would ensue from the next round of stimulus checks. The survey, conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by Bloomberg, found that 34% of Americans, many of whom lived in wealthier households, planned on putting the $1,400 into savings.
In April last year, many Americans received the first round of stimulus checks, worth $1,200. Most people used the money to buy the basics: groceries and medicine. Many also used the cash to buy takeout meals and even streaming and gaming services as they hunkered down at home. Big box retailers like Walmart and Target posted blowout sales for that quarter last year, saying stimulus checks were largely to thank.
At the time, the checks gave the economy a crucial boost, according to experts. Now, on the third round of government spending as the federal debt increases, President Joe Biden has said, “now is the time to go big,” adding that the government can’t spend too much to help the economy.