Heading into the pandemic, 16 million US workers were employed by the restaurant industry, making it one of the largest industries in America.
With the coronavirus still spreading throughout the US, whether it’s safe to visit a restaurant remains a question on the minds of many. For many Americans, they’re not quite sold on restaurants being safe despite most restaurants taking measures to protect staff and customers.
ValuePenguin, which is associated with Lending Tree, conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans. The survey found that 44% of Americans feel indoor restaurants are unsafe to visit amid a pandemic, compared to 40% who believe they are safe. Women were more likely to say indoor dining is unsafe compared to men.
More consumers, however, say getting takeout and dining outdoors is safe. Nearly 67% of respondents felt it’s safe to get takeout, and 58% said eating outdoors is safe.
What do experts say?
Many experts have said even with the precautions restaurants are taking, there is still a sizeable risk of catching the virus while dining inside. These risks, however, are generally significantly lower for those dining outside.
Last month in an interview with MSNBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed toward restaurants being among riskiest places to visit amid the pandemic. Fauci added that bars and gyms also are considered risky in his view.
“When you have restaurants indoors in a situation where you have a high degree of infection in the community [and] you're not wearing masks, that's a problem,” Dr. Fauci said.
Fauci pointed toward a September 2020 CDC study that found those who visited restaurants in the previous two weeks were two times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus than those who said they had not been inside a restaurant.
“Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation,” the CDC said. “Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance. Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use.”
Economic impact to restaurants
With many restaurants forced to close indoor operations during the spring, and scale back indoor capacity during the summer, millions were out of work. According to the National Restaurant Association, 8 million restaurant workers, representing nearly half of the industry, were without jobs during the height of the pandemic. There remained over 2 million out-of-work restaurant employees as of the start of October.
As of Wednesday, 100,000 restaurants have either closed for good, or for a significant period of time. As a whole, the restaurant industry is expected to lose $240 billion by the end of 2020.
In hopes of minimizing spread and regaining customer confidence, the CDC and industry leaders have implemented cleaning procedures. They hope as cases begin to swell again for the cold-weather season, restaurants can remain open amid the pandemic.