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Coronavirus slams foot traffic to U.S. restaurants

Heidi Chung
Reporter

No industry is immune from the rapidly spreading and deadly coronavirus, but American restaurants have been hit particularly hard.

As a growing number of states across the U.S. ban dining in at restaurants, foot traffic to casual dining chains declined 11% nationally from February 19 to March 13, according to analytics company Foursquare.

“We saw a decline (8-12%) in visits to casual dining chains around February 24 in the four cities we focused on (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle),” Foursquare noted. Foot traffic then remained stable between Feb. 24 to Mar. 8.

(Courtesy of Foursquare)

Visits began declining again around Mar. 11, according to Foursquare. As visits to casual dining chains suffered, foot traffic to fast food and fast casual spiked 11% nationally from the week ended Feb. 19 to the week ended Mar. 13. Specifically, New York saw a 9% uptick in traffic, according to Foursquare. Then things took a turn for the worse.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the pandemic on Mar. 13. Since then, numerous restaurants, large and small, shut their dining rooms and started providing takeout and delivery only.

McDonald’s (MCDannounced Monday evening that it would close dining rooms at all of its company-owned restaurants in the U.S. The fast food giant is keeping its drive-thrus open and allowing takeout and delivery. Starbuck (SBUX), Chick-fil-A and KFC (YUM) have also closed dining areas in the U.S.

A dining room at a McDonald's in Titusville, Florida is seen roped off as restaurants across the United States begin to temporarily close dining rooms in favor of take-out and drive thru options in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo credit should read Paul Hennessy / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

America’s restaurant industry employs about 15.6 million people and is the second-largest private employer in the country. However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the entire industry to its knees in recent weeks. Large chains and independent businesses have all had to take drastic operational measures in response to the rapid spread of the virus.

All of these challenges have forced the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to seek government aid. The restaurant lobbying group estimated that the restaurant industry in the U.S. will take about a $225 billion hit over the next three months, which it predicts could lead to 5 million to 7 million lost jobs. Tuesday morning, the NRA sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking the Department of Treasury to create a $145 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund.

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

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