Fed: al fresco dining linked to more than a third of restaurant sales

Outdoor dining has become an important part of the Massachusetts restaurant industry, having “dramatically increased” when the state government banned indoor dining to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Federal Reserve Bank analysts.

In its latest Beige Book, which pulls information from banking and business contacts, the Fed pointed out that more than a third of restaurant sales in Massachusetts this summer came from alfresco dining, which it says “is unusual in Massachusetts where less than 20 percent of restaurants had outdoor dining options before the pandemic.

While restaurants in coastal areas operated at about 75% of typical sales on average during the summer months, the Fed said Boston restaurants “are doing worse than the rest of the state.”

Restaurants were allowed to resume indoor dining in June, but many restaurants have expanded into outdoor spaces in order to serve patrons who might not yet be comfortable venturing inside. for a meal during the pandemic.

Although overall business activity picked up in July and early August, the outlook for businesses in the Massachusetts area remains “very uncertain,” the Fed said. Its observers also noted that the region is slightly more optimistic about the future than it was three months ago. The authors of Beige Book wrote that trading conditions in the region – which covers all of New England with the exception of one county in Connecticut – vary by industry and geography.

“Commercial activity continued to recover modestly in the Premier arrondissement in July and early August, even if certain sectors saw little improvement. Some retailers cited strong activity, while air travel and hotels remained very weak, ”analysts wrote.

They added: “The changes in employment have been mixed. Retail contacts selling automobiles and furniture brought back almost all of their workforce after layoffs and holidays in the spring. On the other hand, many hotel employees remained on leave, especially catering staff who usually work in more important functions. ”

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