January marked the second month in a row that restaurant sales dropped from the previous month.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, total eating and drinking place sales were $72 billion in January, down from $72.5 billion in December and the November peak of $73.1 billion.
January saw a peak of COVID-19 omicron variant infections, which likely depressed restaurant sales.
“Yesterday’s sales numbers highlight the unique and devastating impact restaurants continue to feel from the pandemic,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs with the National Restaurant Association said in a statement to Nation’s Restaurant News.
“While most of the economy showed growth in January, restaurant sales were down for a second month in a row; after adjusting for inflation, sales were nearly $3 billion below mid-2021 levels.”
The restaurant association continues to stress to government leaders the need for financial relief for restaurants affected by the virus and government interventions.
“Small business restaurants aren’t like other small businesses,” Kennedy said. “Even in the best of times, they’re performing a balancing act to provide outstanding service and make ends meet. Thousands of these restaurants were left in limbo when the Restaurant Revitalization Fund closed, and without the replenishment, there’s a good chance we’ll start seeing many of them close.”