Restaurant Research – State of Industry 2021 National Restaurant Association

By | August 8, 2023
restaurant research report 2021

restaurant research report 2021

Restaurant Research Report

The National Restaurant Association each year prepares a comprehensive overview of the restaurant industry and provides a look ahead. The Association’s research is considered the most authoritative source for restaurant industry sales projections and trends.

It is based on analysis of the latest economic data and extensive surveys of
restaurant operators and consumers. See p. 51 for methodology and visit for the latest industry trends and analysis.

The Association’s research and analysis have a long-standing reputation for the highest credibility, neutrality, and accuracy inside and outside the industry. The Association is considered a leading authority on restaurant industry statistics, analysis, trends and forecasts.


  • The restaurant industry ended 2020 with total sales that were $240 billion below the National Restaurant Association’s pre-pandemic forecast for the year.
  • Although restaurant and foodservice sales are expected to post double-digit growth in 2021, it won’t be nearly enough to make up for the substantial losses experienced in 2020.
  • More than 8 million eating and drinking place employees were laid off or furloughed during the peak of the lockdowns.
  • The eating and drinking place sector finished 2020 nearly 2.5 million jobs below its pre-coronavirus level.
  • By December, 110,000 eating and drinking places were closed long term or for good.
  • The majority of permanently closed restaurants were well-established businesses in operation for 16 years; 16% had been open for at least 30 years.
  • Restaurants survived by shifting to off-premises foodservice, streamlining menus, setting up outdoor dining, marketing discount deals, bundling and blending meals, and selling alcohol to go.
  • Operators adopted contactless order and payment technologies at an accelerated pace; consumers expect to be able to use their smartphones for more aspects of the restaurant experience.
  • The vast majority of operators plan to keep at least some of the changes they made to their restaurant during the pandemic.
  • A source of optimism is that consumers greatly miss dining at restaurants; their pent-up demand for restaurant experiences is high.
  • Although 2020 was the most challenging year in restaurant history, this industry full of resilient entrepreneurs will recover.

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Author: Staff Writer

Craig Keefner is the editor and author for Kiosk Association and kiosk industry. With over 30 years in the industry and experience in large and small kiosk solutions, Craig is widely considered to be an expert in the field. Major kiosk projects for him include Verizon Bill Pay kiosk and hundreds of others.