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Restaurant Sales Spike To Nearly 2019 Levels In March

Americans have been eager to go out to eat and drink for more than a year, and it looks like they are finally doing so in greater numbers as states ease restrictions, more people are vaccinated and stimulus checks hit bank accounts. Eating and drinking places enjoyed sales of $62.2B in March, according to the Census Bureau. That is up 13.4% from February ($54.8B) and is 36% higher than the dismal March 2020 total ($45.7B).


Moreover, March 2021 restaurant sales are nearly as robust as they were in March 2019, when total U.S. restaurant sales came in at $62.6B.

“We’re up over 2019,” MOD Pizza CEO Scott Svenson told Restaurant Business. “It’s on the positive side of our expectation."

Sit-down quick-service restaurants were particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic and saw sales drop about 40% in March 2020 compared with the same month in 2019. This March, sales in the sector gained 29% year-over-year, and are only 5% lower than March 2019, QSR Magazine reports.

On Saturday, the Small Business Administration released application requirements and eligibility details for the $28.6B Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was part of the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. 

The grant program for independent restaurants and bars echoes ideas proposed in April 2020 in the never-enacted RESTAURANTS Act. Under the terms of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, restaurants and bars can use the grants for eligible expenses incurred from Feb. 15, 2020, to the end of 2021, such as payrolls, rent or mortgage payments, or other operational expenses. 

The SBA grants cannot exceed $10M per restaurant group, which cannot have more than 20 locations and cannot exceed $5M per location. The agency has been tasked to prioritize grants for businesses owned or controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, women and veterans. 

“Black-owned restaurants received significantly less stimulus funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, heightening challenges and leading to disproportionate closures,” U.S. Black Chambers Inc. President and CEO Ron Busby Sr. said in a statement. “The USBC believes this initiative and collaboration with the SBA will bring needed resources and relief to these often underserved businesses."