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Puerto Rico restaurants lose $398M in sales in ’20 due to pandemic

Puerto Rico’s restaurant industry took a $398 million hit in sales during 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions were in full force, reaching $1.6 billion, a report released by Puerto Rico Restaurants Association (ASORE, in Spanish) showed.

The 2020 results were 20% down from the $1.9 billion reported for 2019.

The study also showed that in the first 10 months of 2021, restaurant sales were 32% higher than the same period in 2020, and 5.7% higher than the same period in 2019.

“The past two years have been of reaction, not planning, and in the face of this extraordinary situation, it’s imperative to learn more about the current state of the restaurant industry, which has suffered so much from the ravages of the pandemic,” said Mateo Cidre, newly appointed president of ASORE.

“It’s also the right time to gauge the prospects of businesses. Much has been said about the impact on the sector. With this report, we clearly see where we are and what the expectations are for the future,” he said.

The study commissioned to the Inteligencia Economica research firm surveyed 1,331 establishments operating in Puerto Rico, of which 53 are chains. The sample provides a full representation of the industry as it considers businesses of all sizes, from single stores with fewer than three employees, to more mature businesses with multiple locations and hundreds of employees.

The report also confirmed that 94% of those surveyed increased prices over the past 12 months and got pushback from nearly half — 49.1% — of their clients.

With the increase in the hourly minimum wage to $8.50, 80.3% of respondents said they would push up their prices even further, while 34% said they would scale back their payroll.

Meanwhile, the shortage of available employees has also meant that 69% of the restaurants surveyed have had to reduce their operating hours.

As for how the sector benefitted from last year’s federal aid, about 73.2% of those surveyed confirmed they participated in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program in 2020 or 2021, 52.7% of them depended on SBA-Economic Injury Disaster Loans, 19.6% on the government aid, and 7.1% on municipal aid.

As for the report’s predictions for 2022, inflation, the labor shortage and supply chain pressures will continue to be challenges at least through the second half of this year, the report showed.

Author Details
Author Details
Yamilet Aponte-Claudio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated from Colegio Nuestra Señora de la Providencia and is currently a sophomore at Sacred Heart University. Majoring in Journalism and adding a minor in accounting and foreign languages, she aspires to study law after obtaining her bachelor’s degree.
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