Ball State researcher: Indiana’s restaurant sector taking hit from pandemic

Chairs and tables stacked in a closed pub
Chairs and tables stacked in a closed pub.

The initial findings of a Ball State University researcher’s examination of the pandemic’s impact on Indiana’s restaurant industry likely will not surprise many people.

When government restrictions on public gatherings were issued earlier this year to slow the spread of COVID-19, it impacted dine-in businesses for the state’s eateries.

Sotiris Hji-Avgoustis, a professor of hospitality and food management in Ball State’s Miller College of Business, said a preliminary analysis of the industry finds that almost half of the 300,000 Hoosiers working in restaurants are either facing unemployment or drastically reduced hours due to the pandemic. He added 41% of restaurant owners reported financial problems so severe that it may lead them to shutter operations by year’s end.   

“These are very dire times for the industry,” Hji-Avgoustis said. “If Indiana officials decide the state must reimpose restrictions to mitigate the spread of the pandemic—which may include reducing hours or further limiting seating—many restaurants will close for good (and) most can’t survive on just providing take-out.”

Other highlights from the research conducted by Hji-Avgoustis:

  • Restaurant and dining operations pump about $13 billion into the state’s economy annually.
  • Hospitality has been the hardest hit industry during the pandemic; some establishments are operating at 70% staffing.
  • Restaurant businesses are often financed through personal credit cards, personal or family savings and through mortgaging the owners’ homes.

Hji-Avgoustis said the National Restaurant Association estimates that the restaurant industry lost $120 billion in the first three months of the pandemic and is on track to lose $240 billion by the end of the year. The association also estimates that at least 100,000 restaurants will close before the end of 2020, Hji-Avgoustis said. 

Hji-Avgoustis will release his complete study in early 2021.


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