New analysis from Datassential reveals a dramatic decline in when restaurants are open.
America is home to over 763,000 brick and mortar restaurants, with the overwhelming majority struggling today to cope with a series of profound aftershocks that continue to emanate from Covid. Rising food costs, supply chain disruptions, and an unprecedented worker shortage have caused restaurants to change the way they do business — what they offer on the menu, the ingredients they buy, and how they get food to a nation of hungry diners. But these challenges have also impacted something far more fundamental for restaurants: when they're actually open for business.
Datassential’s new analysis of operating hours for hundreds of thousands of dining places across the US confirms something that many of us have already sensed — restaurants today just aren’t open as long as they used to be. As of October 2022, the average restaurant is now open for 6.4 fewer hours per week than it was in 2019. That’s a decline of 7.5%, which is massive by industry standards. This means consumers today have fewer eating options than they used to, and restaurants must generate more sales in a shorter window to match their pre-Covid levels of business.
Key findings of the Datassential analysis include:
- Restaurant business hours have declined an average of 6.4 hours per week (7.5%) since 2019
- 58.6% of US restaurants reduced their operating hours since 2019, while just 19.8% have increased them
- Independent restaurants (-7.5 hours per week) and casual dining sit-down restaurants (-8.9) exhibited particularly steep declines
- Just one state saw a net increase in restaurant open hours — Alaska (+2.7 hours per week)
- Blue states exhibited the greatest declines, with Washington DC (-12.5 hours per week), Vermont (-11.3), Maine (-9.8), New York (-9.5), Connecticut (-9.2) and Minnesota (-9.2) topping the list
- Denny’s (-30.1 hours per week), Texas Roadhouse (-21.2), IHop (-17.7), Subway (-16.0), and Einsten Brothers (-14.2) are among the chains that reduced their hours the most.
- Meanwhile, Wendy’s (+21.2 hours per week), Crumbl Cookies (+3.8), Boston Market (+2.7), Jack in the Box (+2.4), and In-n-Out Burger (+2.2) are among a smaller handful of chains that extended their operating hours.
Labor shortages meet a new normal
So what’s behind this massive decline in restaurant operating hours? It turns out there are multiple culprits responsible:
- Most importantly, the current worker shortage has disproportionately impacted the foodservice industry, forcing restaurants unable to fill their empty positions to reduce their operating hours.
- Demand for restaurants in certain cities and neighborhoods has declined since Covid, and particularly so in areas that closed down most aggressively during the pandemic.
- The shift to work-from-home has resulted in massive reductions in both daytime and afterwork consumer traffic in key business centers.
- People are at home more often, often favoring to “Netflix and chill” over going out for a night on the town.
The post-pandemic recovery has been particularly tough on America’s independent restaurants, which averaged a loss of 7.5 hours per week since 2019, equal to a 10.1% decline. Chain restaurants, on the other hand, have been far more resilient; restaurant brands over 500 units experienced a much milder decline of 4.0 hours per week, or a drop of just 4.3%.
|Independent restaurants||-7.5 hours per week|
|2 to 10 unit chain restaurants||-7.3 hours per week|
|11 to 50 unit chain restaurants||-6.4 hours per week|
|51 to 100 unit chain restaurants||-5.6 hours per week|
|101 to 500 unit chain restaurants||-5.6 hours per week|
|501+ unit chain restaurants||-4.0 hours per week|
|source: Datassential Firefly|
You better eat before 9:30pm
Restaurants are closing earlier than ever these days, with many shutting their doors by 8 or 9pm, instead of the traditional 10 or 11pm. Imagine a typical Wednesday evening, for instance. Datassential’s Firefly data reveals that today just 41.5% of restaurants are open at 9:45pm on Wednesdays, compared to 56.6% in 2019.
% OF RESTAURANTS OPEN ON A TYPICAL WEDNESDAY EVENING
|source: Datassential Firefly|
The United States of Closing
Alaska stands alone as the only state where restaurants expanded their operating hours since the pandemic, with the typical eatery open an extra 2.7 hours a week today versus 2019. Across the rest of the country, the decline in weekly restaurant hours ranges from trivial (Arkansas; -0.4) to extreme (Washington, DC; -12.5).
Several states that shut down most aggressively during Covid have experienced particularly steep reductions in restaurant operating hours, and most notably so along the Northeast corridor with big drops across Vermont, Maine, New York, and Connecticut. Out west, Washington state (-7.4 hours per week) and Oregon (-8.1) saw restaurant hours cut back more so than did California (-5.9) or Nevada (-6.0) — while Idaho lost just 2 hours a week.
source: Datassential Firefly
The city that never sleeps… sort of
No part of the country has seen its restaurants trim hours as much as New York City. While the greater New York metro (which also covers parts of New Jersey and Connecticut) saw an average loss of 9.1 weekly restaurants hours since the pandemic, that number doubles across large swaths of Manhattan — with neighborhoods including Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, the Theater District, and the East Village experiencing an average decline of nearly 20 hours per week.
Remarkably, NYC is home to 12 of the country’s 15 zip codes with the largest reduction in restaurant operating hours. The only other cities to crack that the top 15 are Washington DC, Chicago, and New Orleans — each occupying just one spot on the list.
Consider the 10011 zip code, which covers portions of NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood. Back in 2019, nearly 53% of its restaurants stayed open past 10pm; today, that number has fallen over 20 points to just 32.5%. Similar or even sharper declines can be found across much of NYC’s other areas, as its restaurants adapt to changes in the city’s walking traffic and the stark reality of a tight and increasingly expensive labor market.
TOP 15 MAJOR ZIP CODES WITH LARGEST DECLINE IN WEEKLY RESTAURANT OPERATING HOURS SINCE 2019
|Zip Code||Area||Lost Weekly Hours|
|60654||Chicago (River North)||-20.2|
|10014||NYC (Meatpacking District)||-19.3|
|10036||NYC (Theater District)||-19.0|
|10003||NYC (East Village)||-18.8|
|70130||New Orleans (Lower Garden)||-18.2|
|20001||Washington DC (Mt. Vernon Square)||-17.6|
|10019||NYC (Upper West Side)||-17.6|
|10017||NYC (Murray Hill)||-17.3|
|10002||NYC (Lower East Side)||-16.7|
|10016||NYC (Murray Hill)||-16.7|
|10018||NYC (Midtown West)||-16.6|
|source: Datassential Firefly|
Download the full data
Click below to download easy-to-read data tables broken out by:
- All US metro areas
- All 50 states
- Top 100 zip codes
- Restaurant types (fast food, casual dining, etc.)
- Cuisine types
- Major chain restaurant brands
Media resources & citation notes
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This analysis was conducted on October 17, 2022 based on data from Datassential’s Firefly database. Firefly tracks detailed data on over 1.4 million foodservice establishments (both restaurants and other food venues) in the USA, plus more than 9 million restaurants across 60 countries around the world.
For this study, we examined the operating hours for hundreds of thousands of US-based restaurant locations across two time periods: October 2019 and October 2022. The analysis examined each of the seven days of week individually, comparing the % of restaurants open at each half hour interval.
The analysis covers all restaurant formats (sit-down and counter-service) and both independents and chains of all sizes, and can be considered a representative view of the broad restaurant industry across all parts of the US.
Samantha Des Jardins is a copywriter at Datassential.