Recovering, Reopening, & Rebounding: Current State of Restaurants & Bars

Throughout this unique time, a major question that has crossed the nation’s mind is- “What will happen to restaurants?”

Restaurants have and always will be a key part of commercialism in hospitality- but it does not just stop there. Agriculture, food and beverage purveyors, restaurant technology, and many more that developed their business models to supply the growing restaurant industry and employ millions more workers. The economic contribution of the restaurant industry was struck by layoffs of nearly 8 million employees.

A place of pastime, work, sustenance, reunion, celebration, enjoyment, dating, and tradition. The industry that may not have first come to mind when the pandemic hit but that lingers with us through it and has now come full circle with reopenings.
“Vaccinations are here, weather is warming, and restaurants in every state are now open at some capacity,” as Daily Seventy Fifty puts it. This article references 11 wholesalers to learn what ordering trends they are witnessing from their customers and what it tells us about the rebound for the drinks industry in coming months.

The Roaring 20’s are back and a metamorphosis has begun for the drink industry. On premise comes back to life as states roll back their restrictions. “’In the last 45 days, the on-premise channel has significantly exceeded our expectations,’ says Mark Fisher, the President of Sales and Marketing for Massachusetts-based Martignetti. Not surprisingly, the on-premise is up 325 percent compared to last year (according to Nielsen).”

With lack of entertainment options, little socialization let alone dating scenes, Millennials have been fueling this uptick since the winter months and will continue to fire up its resurgence, while recently vaccinated boomers are now adding support. Lastly, large gatherings are beginning to resume with increasing order volume for restocking venues. “People are beginning to make big plans for their deferred important events like graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and reunions, and businesses need to entertain clients. While much of this will occur next year, plans are falling into place now. Dining and large reservations for events including the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 will resume in our region.”

It is important to note that despite this spike in sales, the reopenings are not affecting off premise sales. In the near term, one expert predicts the numbers in retail to continue growing as the ready-to-drink category keeps climbing along with large spirit brands. In addition, restaurants are now condensing their wine lists “until buyers have more confidence in the future and their businesses are stabilized”. Smaller lists make it easier for staff and consumers alike, still offering premium wines in a less capital intensive manner.

As for in store wine sales, “We are seeing more opportunities for the niche and smaller producers,” says Jaime Rubin, Vice President Business Development at Massachusetts-based Ruby Wines. “Customers are spending more time in stores, allowing buyers to be able to reconnect and recommend new items; they are interested in trying new wines rather than quickly ordering curbside.”

Some states in the country have set a precedent for reopening numbers like Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Experiencing a V-shaped recovery curve, where some other states are predicted to come in like a lamb and out like a lion just as the seasons have. Despite cross country weather differences, Eric Stewart, the President and Owner of Vanguard Wines, harps on restaurants continuing their outdoor dining efforts for the long haul, preserving this new channel of business.


“It’s worth remembering that there has been tremendous trauma in the past year for hospitality—30 percent of on-premise licenses filed for bankruptcy in the last year,” adds Lombardo.

While optimistic for the coming months, McCollum, like most wholesalers, already has her eye on the end of the year. “Summer will be strong, but we really think the holidays and the ringing in of 2022 will bring a sense of euphoria!”


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