It’s hard to get hard numbers on the impact of the pandemic on San Francisco’s restaurant industry. There are voluntary surveys of restaurant owners, of course, and data from delivery apps and review sites on how many places seem to be taking orders (or not) and, in the case of apps, for how much. But without a census-style door-to-door accounting of every restaurant in town (about 4,415, based on current permits from the SF Department of Public Health), it’s still hard to say. But the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce says it’s found a way to check the health of the restaurant industry…and the prognosis isn’t good.
The Chamber is dedicated to advocating for all local businesses, so they cut to the chase, working with credit card companies to extract card swipe data at San Francisco businesses, the gatekeeper said. Jay Cheng lyrics.
“We only have access to aggregated and anonymous data, so it’s hard to go overboard,” warns Cheng Eater SF. But when Eater SF asks for data specific to San Francisco restaurants, the results Cheng provides are shocking.
According to Cheng, based on data provided to the House by credit card companies:
- San Francisco restaurant sales are down 84% year over year, comparing July 2019 to July 2020.
- San Francisco restaurant sales have fallen 91% since March, when the pandemic began
In a non-pandemic period, we could stop here to note that this data obviously does not apply to cash sales. But while businesses in San Francisco are still legally required to accept cash, almost all of those that used to be cash are now accepting credit, due to (largely unfounded) fears that the new coronavirus could be transmitted in cash. . Plus, customers are much more likely to prefer contactless payments these days, most restaurants say, making card swipes a better sales barometer than they would have been six months ago.
Based on credit card activity, Cheng says about 51.5% of restaurants in the city are currently not seeing any sales, suggesting they have closed temporarily or permanently. Overall, Cheng says, of the San Francisco customer service companies currently doing business, 66.8% are restaurants or grocery stores.
That 51.5% stat matches the expectations of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), the lobby group that represents SF’s restaurant industry. At the start of the pandemic, Laurie Thomas, the group’s executive director, predicted a permanent closure rate of 50%, saying in May that her figure was “an astrological number, based on talking to people right now. Anecdotally, one out of two people don’t see how to stay in business.