By: Judi Currie, Business NH Magazine
Revenue is down, expenses are up, and with layers of federal, state and local regulations driven by the pandemic, restaurants face a long, cold winter.
New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association President and CEO Mike Somers says he doesn’t have hard statistics but estimates that more than 200 NH restaurants have gone out of business since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State mandates abruptly closed restaurants in March and gradually reopened them through the summer under a variety of restrictions that left them well below capacity. To survive, restaurants experimented with takeout options, social media campaigns and online ordering. A saving grace for some was creating outdoor seating. But as tents come down and picnic tables are stowed, restaurants must maximize indoor options and overcome the biggest challenge: making customers feel safe.
“According to the National Restaurant Association, 100,000 restaurants have closed in this country since March. That’s one in six,” says Tom Boucher, owner and CEO of Bedford-based Great NH Restaurants, which employs almost 1,000 people and includes T-BONES, CJ’s, Cactus Jack’s and Copper Door.
The National Restaurant Association estimates the industry will lose $240 billion by the end of the year. Boucher says he expects the closures will be worse in colder climates such as NH’s.
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