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ASORE: COVID-19 slams Puerto Rico restaurant sales in ’20

Puerto Rico’s restaurant industry has taken a significant hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing about $352 million from January to September 2020, down 23.6% from the same period in 2019, the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association revealed.

The trade group known as ASORE commissioned research firm Inteligencia Económica to analyze the economic toll the pandemic and government-imposed restrictions have had on the industry.

For the study, the firm interviewed 187 people representing 1,593 establishments in Puerto Rico — fine and casual dining restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries and quick-service restaurants — from Dec. 28, 2020 to Jan. 22, 2021.

The results show that 38% of the participants responded that their sales have declined by more than 50% since the beginning of the pandemic through December 2020. Meanwhile, 27% of the respondents said their restaurant sales declined between 30% and 50%.

“Without a doubt, the numbers that our study reflects is that the restaurant industry is an important economic sector, which is deeply affected and so, the government and the leadership of this industry must work hand in hand on short-, medium- and long-term strategies,” said Gustavo Vélez, president of Inteligencia Económica.

“We need a clear and coherent public policy toward this sector that avoids a greater loss of jobs and the closure of businesses,” he said.

Regarding restaurant operations, 50% of the participants answered that their business remains open during the hours allowed by the governor’s executive order, while 35% answered that they remain open less than the hours allowed.

The pandemic accelerated the use of technology — such as delivery apps like Uva or Uber Eats — which has allowed many restaurants to stay afloat, the study showed.

At the same time, 96% of restaurant owners said they have invested in technology and security measures to protect clients and employees from contracting the virus.

“It’s for this reason that we urge the Health Department to consider us to expedite the order of vaccination for our associates, from group 1C to group 1B,” said ASORE President José Vázquez-Barquet, who was sworn into the position during the presentation held at the Convention Center in Miramar.

The study also revealed that other factors that have negatively affected the industry have been energy costs, as they appear as the one with the greatest impact at 82%, followed by the economic depression at 80%, and the population loss in third place, with 76%.

“The study shows the plight of restaurants owners and operators that we have publicly exposed over the past months. We definitely need economic relief for our business class with which we can balance the expenses and losses that we have had so far,” Vázquez said.

Moreover, the study shows that 65% of the participants confirmed it will take between one and two years for their sales to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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