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Food Service Industry Updates

For Some Restaurants, Booze is Providing a Boost

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The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is calling it a “magic potion” that could help keep restaurants in business during the pandemic.

We’re talking about adult beverages.

In an article on its website, the NRA reports that its research found the industry lost the industry lost $120 billion during March, April and May because of the coronavirus. The good news is that restaurant sales rebounded in June — with registered sales of $47.4 billion, the highest monthly sales volume since the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in March — but still remained about $18 billion down from the pre-coronavirus sales levels posted in January and February, according to the NRA.

The problem is going forward. There has been a big bump in the road — an increased level of coronavirus cases. Some restaurants that reopened may close again, and others are returning to takeout and delivery only, according to the NRA. But being able to sell alcohol with those takeout and delivery orders could help some restaurants regain lost revenue.

The NRA points out that several state governments — recognizing the challenges that restaurants were facing early on in the pandemic — responded with temporary executive orders to permit the sale of sealed, unopened bottles of wine, beer, and spirits to go.

The executive orders proved to be good timing as restaurants selling alcohol with takeout and delivery orders was a trend that was taking hold before the pandemic struck, according to Hudson Riehle, NRA’s vice president of research. The NRA said its “2019 Restaurant Delivery Survey” found that 56% of all adults said they would order drinks with their food delivery order from a restaurant, if permitted.

Mike Whatley, the NRA’s vice president of state and local affairs, said in the article that the virus is accelerating the trend, which has been helpful for struggling restaurants.

“When the pandemic forced in-restaurant dining to temporarily close, operators couldn’t sell the beverages on the premises, so a bipartisan group of lawmakers expanded regulations to accommodate the sale during the crisis,” Whatley noted in the article. “The new regulations have proved popular with both operators and customers.”

The NRA stresses there is much for restaurateurs to consider when selling alcoholic beverages, such liability issues, and rules and regulations that are subject to change state by state.

To help operators stay on top of and in compliance with the rules, the NRA’s ServSafe Training and Certification Compliance team has compiled a State Alcohol Delivery Laws/Orders/Regulations tracker, which offers information on whether or not operators can sell the beverages and how.

“We noticed a state-by-state trend of consumers wanting to have alcohol delivered with their food orders,” says Kate Piche, director of the ServSafe team, said in the article. “Since they couldn’t go into bars or have alcoholic beverages with their favorite meals in a restaurant dining room, demand for alcohol delivery started to grow. Restaurants in states that had laws allowing alcohol delivery quickly realized that adding beer, wine and even cocktails to their offerings could help them stay in business.”

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