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Pandemic killed off 10% of U.S. restaurants. Food trucks among the hardest hit, report finds

April 1, 2021, 4:32 PM UTC

It was never a secret that the COVID-19 pandemic would be especially hard on the food service industry, but new numbers are now showing just how devastating it has been.

A report from Datassential finds that 10.2% of all U.S. restaurants have closed permanently since March 2020. That works out to 79,438 shuttered restaurants out of the 778,807 operating at the beginning of the pandemic.

Food trucks were especially hard hit, as people were wary of their close-contact nature, with a higher closure rate. The report said that 22.5% of mobile restaurants have closed down. Quick-service restaurants—which include fast-food chains—weathered the storm better than others, with closures capped at 9.8%.

“This last year has been one the toughest the restaurant industry has ever faced,” said Jack Li, CEO of Datassential, in a statement. “But the good news is that the rate of closures is slowing, and the future is bright for those restaurants who have learned to adapt to the host of new challenges.”

In a win for local establishments, the study found that chain restaurants, in general, closed at a higher rate than independent restaurants—as many people made a point of getting takeout and deliveries from their favorite local eateries.

And Thai restaurants survived the pandemic surprisingly strongly, with a closure rate of just 7.5% (second in strength only to burger joints). French restaurants took the biggest blow, with a permanent closure rate of 15.3%.

Datassential’s numbers, while grim, are lower than other estimates. In December, the National Restaurant Association estimated that 17% of the nation’s restaurants—some 110,000—had closed permanently owing to the pandemic. And last June, the Independent Restaurant Coalition warned that 85% of independent restaurants could go under by the end of the year.