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Survey estimates Virginia’s restaurant, food service industry could lose $1.3 billion in April

‘We’ve never seen this kind of impact on the restaurant industry’

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A new survey from the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association shows widespread and monumental economic losses due to COVID-19.

In April alone, the survey estimates that Virginia’s restaurant and food service industry could lose $1.3 billion in sales.

The Roanoke Regional Parternship found that the Roanoke Valley could see between 20,000 to 35,000 jobs lost due to the coronavirus. A majority of those jobs belonged to the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Restaurant owners in Southwest Virginia are feeling the pressure, not knowing if or when things will reopen.

Business at Our Daily Bread in Roanoke County is nowhere near what it was before the coronavirus pandemic, according to co-owner Abigail Lawton. She said sales plummeted to a mere 10% of what they were pulling in before the COVID-19 shutdowns began in mid-March.

“Very quickly you know, we went from being full and people in here to empty," Lawton said.

Things have picked back up, but only a little. Lawton said they’re still only making 25% what they were. In order to cut costs and stay open, they’ve had to layoff more than half the staff, reduce hours, keep inventory low and offer a limited menu.

Mac and Bob’s in Salem is only seeing 30% to 40% of the restaurant’s regular business. Co-owner Bob Rotanz said it can reach 50% on a good day.

“With the small business loan that we got and doing some business, we should be hopefully getting us through until we actually open up,” Rotanz said.

Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association President Eric Terry said it’s an unprecedented downward trend across the Commonwealth.

“Even in 9/11 and all the other things, we’ve never seen this kind of impact on the restaurant industry and, you know, likely may never see it again," Terry said.

The association published a statewide restaurant industry impact survey and found 237,000 employees have already been laid off or furloughed, which means that three out of four jobs are gone.

The survey also found that 94% of restaurants have had to layoff or furlough workers and there’s been a 77% decline in restaurant sales overall.

This survey looks at the job and financial losses due to coronavirus in Virginia in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
This survey looks at the job and financial losses due to coronavirus in Virginia in the restaurant and hospitality industry. (WSLS)

In order to help, the association started a relief fund to help restaurant and hospitality employees who are now out of work.

With bills to pay, restaurants are anxiously waiting for the governor’s go-ahead to reopen, but the uncertainty over if and how they can return to normal hangs overhead.

“There’s been some scary times, but we hope we can make it through," Lawton said.


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