Restaurant Industry Stats: Market Size, Finances, COVID-19

Dining out has become a trend amongst the consumer society in the United States for many years now. Restaurants are not just places to eat but also to socialize with friends or business partners. Over the past few decades, the restaurant industry in the United States has been on a lighting speed rise.

On the other hand, the recent restaurant industry facts reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly slowed the further growth of this industry in 2020 as the restaurants were the first to close along with other similar service businesses.

Let’s go together through some key numbers and statistics about the restaurant industry before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top Restaurant Industry Stats: Editor’s Choice

General Restaurant Industry Statistics

Restaurants are an irreplaceable part of North America’s food culture. These foodservice businesses are continuously changing how we think about food and what we choose to eat.

However, in 2020, the circumstances for the restaurant industry changed drastically. Let’s go through some current stats about the restaurant industry in general.

1. In 2020, restaurants captured only 46% of the share in food spending by consumers.

In 2020, the US restaurant industry market size plummeted due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many restaurants reported lower sales and financial distress. There was a 4% decrease in consumers’ share of food spending compared to the pre-pandemic levels.

2. According to the latest restaurant failure rate statistics, only 17% of restaurants fail within the first year of operation.

For a long time, there was a belief that 90% of restaurants fail after one year of operation. However, the latest available data reveals that about 50% of the restaurants reach a median lifespan of 4.5 years.

3. The most recent restaurant demographics suggest that the average employee age for restaurant owners is 38 years.

Only 27% of restaurant owners are between 20 and 30 years old, while most are over 40. As for gender diversity, men and women bearing this job title are almost equal in numbers.

 4. 12.5 million people worked in restaurants by the end of 2020, restaurant industry employment statistics show.

With 110,000 locations closed due to pandemic—some temporarily, some permanently—it’s not entirely surprising that the number is 3.1 million below the projected data.  Nine out of ten of all restaurants employ fewer than 50 workers.

5. More than 25 million people in the US visit McDonald’s every day.

The average number of customers in a restaurant per day primarily depends on customer experience.

For instance, McDonald’s always goes above and beyond with employee training, and it recently implemented 50 new safety procedures. As a result, an army of American customers remains loyal to the famous food chain.

6. About 26% of Americans aged 18-29 visit a fast-food restaurant once to three times per week.

The latest restaurant customer demographics revealed that younger generations might not be the biggest fans of fast food in America. Interestingly, only a quarter of the young visit fast-food restaurants up to three times per week.

On the other hand, 36% of US adults aged 30-49 enjoy a fast-food meal one to three times per week. The situation is similar with 50-64-year olds, where 35% of respondents admit visiting a fast-food restaurant a few times per week.

7. According to the latest available data, the average restaurant size is 600 to 1,500 square feet.

In the past, restaurants usually took up 2,500 to over 5,000 square feet of space. However, it has become more common to see smaller restaurants because the restaurant-operating expenses are continuously rising.

A smaller size restaurant means lower lease costs and better financial balance—if there ever was a time to open the restaurant in your home, it’s now.

8. According to the latest restaurant industry statistics, in 2021, 47% of restaurants were more than 20% below-average staffing levels.

As of January 2021, the restaurant employment rate finally increased, marking April as the fourth consecutive month of payroll growth. However, many restaurant operators reported that their staffing levels remained lower in comparison to the pre-pandemic figures.

9. Acosta’s COVID-19 statistics on eating out vs. eating at home revealed that 55% of consumers now eat at home more frequently.

The ongoing pandemic is reinventing how America eats, according to Acosta. This company compiled a report on consumers’ retail spending and eating habits in September 2020 using industry data and online surveys of their shopper community.

How Big Is The Restaurant Industry?

The approximate sales estimate for the restaurant industry in 2020 by the National Restaurant Association was $899 billion. However, the industry suffered $240 billion in losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Consequently, the US restaurant industry size was down to $659 billion in sales during 2020. However, the rising vaccination rates and easing of restrictions in many parts of the country caused a spike in restaurant sales and gave hope that 2021 statistics will be more positive.

10. The latest quick-service restaurant industry statistics reveal that there were 199,549 quick-service restaurants in the US in 2020.

A quick-service restaurant’s primary focus is to provide customers with food as quickly as possible. In general, a quick-service restaurant doesn’t have table service. Also, the majority of these restaurants operate using the franchise model.

11. The biggest restaurant in the US in 2020 was Starbucks, with $24.1 billion in revenue (TTM).

Starbucks is a globally popular coffee shop-themed chain with more than 30,000 stores worldwide. This company owns licensed stores worldwide and sells specialty beverages such as coffees, teas, and fresh food items.

12. In 2020, the number of restaurants in the US that provide full-service was 33,769.

Full-service restaurants primarily focus on providing food services to customers who can order from a broad range of menu items, eat while seated, and pay after eating. However, these establishments also have takeout and delivery options.

13. The restaurant industry growth rate faced contraction in cumulative 12 months revenue by -15.18% in 2020.

For many years the restaurant industry was consistently growing. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the increase, causing many businesses to close, which resulted in a dramatically higher unemployment rate.

Restaurant Industry Financial Statistics: Overview

Last year was the most challenging year for the restaurant industry ever. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused over 10,000 restaurant closures, completely shifted operational models, and created deep anxiety about dining out.

Eating and drinking places are the very essence of US hospitality industry sales. The preliminary data from the US Census Bureau indicated this as the third substantial sales increase in the last four months.

15. The average restaurant revenue for a new restaurant less than 12 months old is $111,860.70 per month.

Revenue is the money that a restaurant generates through different revenue streams. The average revenue depends highly on types of restaurants, location, size, and service models.

For example, it is hard to compare a fast-food restaurant and a fine dining establishment’s revenues.

16. An average income of a restaurant owner in the US is $72,600 a year.

The average restaurant owner’s income varies based on a range of factors. Primarily, income will depend on conditions such as first-year vs. subsequent years, season, location, and years of experience.

17. In the first quarter of 2021, the restaurant industry’s revenue growth pace accelerated to 4.21% year-over-year, above the industry average.

The latest restaurant revenue statistics indicate that the industry has fallen at the 2014 levels of sales growth. However, many restaurants succeeded in increasing their sales by providing online shopping and delivery options.

18. The most recent restaurant business statistics disclosed that 110,000 restaurants were temporarily or permanently closed in 2020.

The majority of closed restaurants were established businesses and fixtures that had been in business for many years. On the other hand, the restaurants that survived had to get creative to stay afloat by expanding their outdoor dining, adjusting menus, and providing alcohol-to-go options.

Global Restaurant Industry Statistics

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the global restaurant industry. Many consumers stopped dining out because of social distance measures and the general danger of public places. This is the first time in history that the global restaurant industry suffered such significant losses.

19. According to Canadian restaurant industry statistics, in 2020, 800,000 food service workers were dismissed or had their working hours cut down to zero.

The Canadian restaurant industry was hit the hardest in 2020, leaving almost 1 million people temporarily or permanently unemployed. At the height of the pandemic, the employment rate was 21% below levels recorded before February 2020.

20. The latest UK restaurant industry statistics in 2020 reveal that approximately one-third of British respondents were comfortable dining out at restaurants.

About 33% of the respondents were comfortable dining out indoors at restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 23% of the respondents who live in a local lockdown area said they were uncomfortable, while 14% said they were very uncomfortable.

21. According to the restaurant industry statistics, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic decreased the overall performance in Spanish restaurants by 40%.

After the Spanish government lifted the lockdown measures, the majority of quick-service restaurants opened. However, between 20% to 30% of restaurants remained closed or were closed permanently.

The majority of restaurants worldwide started delivering food during the pandemic and invested in creating mobile applications and websites for online shopping.

According to recent restaurant industry stats, China is the world’s largest online food delivery market, with $51.5 billion in revenue in 2020.

23. In April 2021, seated diners in the UK were 36.14% lower than in 2019.

The latest available restaurant industry statistics in the UK suggested that restriction measures have heavily damaged the UK restaurant industry. After almost three months of lockdown, the UK finally reopened its restaurants but with strict guidelines, fearing another wave of coronavirus.

When the number of seated diners in UK restaurants gradually increased, the government issued new lockdown measures affecting restaurants and damaging this industry.

Restaurant Industry Stats: The Takeaway

The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 a statistical anomaly when it comes to the restaurant industry. The sudden shift in the consumers’ habits has forced restaurants to adapt to the “new normal” to keep their businesses open.

The sudden restriction measures that didn’t allow sit-down indoor dining inspired restaurant owners to invest in their digital presence, takeaway, and food delivery service, reshaping the dining experience in the United States and the world.

Even though the restaurant industry suffered considerable losses in the last 15 months, there is hope that 2021 will be a year of rebuilding, with trends like off-premise dining and delivery continuing to gain importance as consumer preferences shift.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many restaurants are there in the United States?

There are over 1 million restaurant locations in the United States. This industry plays a significant role in the US economy, and many Americans worked in restaurants at some point in their lives.

As the American lifestyle is becoming increasingly hectic, home cooking often falls second, providing the restaurant industry’s steady growth. On the other hand, the meal prep industry is gaining in popularity as well—read how to start a meal prep business, if you’re interested in this prospect.

How much does a small restaurant make per year?

Small restaurant owners can make anywhere between $31,000 to $155,000 a year. The estimate for the national average is around $65,000 a year. 

Restaurant concept, geographic location, and competitor pricing are the main factors determining a restaurant’s income. For example, an exclusive restaurant in New York and a fast-food restaurant in Wisconsin will see very different incomes.

How much do restaurants make per month?

On average, the monthly revenue of the restaurants that are operational for less than a year is $112,000. Starting a new restaurant business costs a lot, and in most cases, the average revenue is usually not enough to turn a profit in the beginning. 

The restaurants have to keep prices high enough to cover the cost of goods sold, labor costs, and gain some profit. Appropriate inventory management is often a key factor for running a profitable restaurant.

Which restaurant chain serves the most people in a year?

McDonald’s is one of the oldest and most recognizable restaurant chains in the whole world. This fast-food giant is also a restaurant chain that has the most servings per year. 

The chain started international expansion 50 years ago and is operating in more than 100 countries worldwide. McDonald’s is the most popular family restaurant that offers low-cost food, flavors, and fast-food concepts that appeal to children and adults.

How many new restaurants open each year?

The number of new restaurant openings was on the rise in the last five years, reaching its peak in 2019, when the yearly average was approximately 5,000 restaurants. 

Even though 2020 was one of the most turbulent years for the restaurant industry in the past few decades, thousands of new businesses opened in September 2020, which is higher than expected considering the ongoing pandemic. 

Precisely 6,497 new restaurants and food businesses opened in September 2020, only 100 fewer than in 2019.

How many people work in restaurants?

For a long time, the restaurant industry offered reliable, stable, and flexible positions. However, the employment statistics of the US restaurant industry oscillated heavily over the past decade. 

According to the official numbers, in 2020, the restaurant industry employed around 11.26 million people. It is a decrease compared to the previous years, primarily due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Still, it is a significant part of the US economy.

What percentage of the economy is the restaurant industry?

The restaurant industry makes up 4% of the total US gross domestic product. This industry represents an essential part of every economy because it’s a vital source of jobs and careers and reflects the cultural identity of every country. 

For a long time, the restaurant industry was the second-largest private-sector employer in the US, generating an additional 34 jobs in the national economy for every million dollars spent in restaurants.

Is the restaurant industry growing?

The restaurant industry was on the rise for many years, successfully overcoming many global economic crises. However, 2020 was one of the most challenging years for this industry, ending the year with $240 billion below initial sales estimates. 

Nevertheless, The National Restaurant Association expects a growth of 10.2% in 2021 as consumer demand for a restaurant experience, much desired during the pandemic, is rapidly increasing.

How much is the restaurant industry worth?

At the end of 2020, the restaurant industry was worth around $659 billion, or 27.3% below the National Restaurant Association’s pre-pandemic forecast. 

The latest restaurant industry stats reveal that coronavirus has caused 110,000+ closures leaving very little chance for significant compensation of the substantial losses experienced in a short period during 2020. 

But despite challenges and changes of dynamics within, the restaurant industry has proved capable of fast adaptation and making steps towards recovery.


Acosta, American Journal of Transportation, Bureau of Labor Statistics, CHEF’STORE, CSIMarket, FinancesOnline, Foodable, Investopedia, McDonald’s, National Business Capital & Services, National Restaurant Association, National Restaurant Association, On The Line, Restaurants Canada, Restaurant Dive, Revenue Management Solutions, Statista, Statista, Statista, Zippia