What Restaurants should expect in December

As you ramp up for the holiday season, we've compiled a short list of what restaurants and bars should expect in December.

When trying to forecast December sales it can be helpful to understand what 2021 has been like up to this point compared to the last two years. Total sales for US Eating and Drinking Places in 2021 largely returned to 2019 levels with full year forecasted sales of$609B (compared to $615.9B in 2019). For reference 2020 sales were $497.6B

So, what should restaurants expect in December this year?

What affects dining traffic in December

Shopping traffic

Obviously, when people are out and about shopping, they're going to want to grab a bite to eat. Restaurants located near shopping districts or near malls should see much better numbers this year compared to last year. As of this writing, social distancing, masking, and dining rules are looser across the country than last year.

Indoor dining

Major California cities shut down indoor dining last year in mid-November, and New York City followed suit in early December. This year should be better with indoor dining allowed with proof-of vaccination in most places. Bay Area counties like San Francisco, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Alameda all have Fully Vaccinated rates of over 72% (Marin is at nearly 80%). Los Angeles area counties aren't too far behind with Fully Vaccinated rates in the low-to-mid 60's.

Dining on the actual date of holidays

When it comes to December 24th and December 25th, sales tend to be lighter than earlier points in the month. Unlike the night before Thanksgiving, which is typically the busiest night of the year for bars, sales decrease by around 40% on Christmas Eve vs. other days in December. Sales declines are even deeper on Christmas day with sales down 85% vs. a normal December day.

When it comes to New Year's Eve, restaurants can see a bump in sales if they stay open later, but New Year's Day tends to be a bust with sales down 72%.

Tipping

If you do stay open on the holidays, one silver lining is tips and check sizes tend to be better for the staff that do come in.

What about COVID this year?

You've probably heard a lot about the Omicron COVID variant in the last week. The new COVID-19 variant first showed up in South Africa, but is now confirmed to be present in Europe and parts of Asia and North America. We're all keeping our fingers crossed that this new variant is less powerful than previous variants. The earliest indications are the Omicron spreads fast, but officials are hopeful that it may not cause as severe illness as other variants.

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