Half of Americans Say a Restaurant They Loved Closed its Doors Because of the Pandemic

NBC 7 Responds looks at a recent survey of how our habits have changed

NBC Universal, Inc.

The pandemic has been very hard on restaurants and foodies are feeling it, too. A new survey from Lending Tree shows millions of people have a favorite restaurant that was closed.

"You see half of Americans say a restaurant they love is now gone because of the pandemic," said Matt Schulz of Lending Tree. "It's a pretty staggering number."

The survey shows that the pandemic has also changed people's dining habits.

"We've been trying our best to support local businesses," said Jamie Burnett, a customer. "I've been a pretty good tipper all the time, but I'm definitely finding myself tipping more than I normally do."

The survey found that nearly 60% of people say they are tipping more than they were before the pandemic. However 28% said they did not tip at all the last time they ate at a restaurant, and 10% of people did not tip while ordering delivery.

"Those tips are so important for the morale of the business," said Pamela Paymard of T's Cafe in Solana Beach. "And for the morale of getting people to come back to work again."

Paymard's parents started the café in 1978, but the pandemic has been very hard. They had to lay off a half-dozen employees and depend on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money for survival.

"Most of our business has deteriorated by 50%," said Paymard. "Come out. Be supportive. Order to go food!"

The survey also found people have strings attached to their dining out habits. More than 40% of people said they had left a restaurant because it felt too crowded or people were not wearing masks.

Those behaviors are also causing tension. A third of customers say their stance on eating at restaurants has caused tension between family and friends.

Schulz says there are a few ways to make sure your eating habits are helping. First, he says, focus on eating at local restaurants. Second, examine your tipping habits.

"If we all added a dollar or two on top of those tips it would make a really significant difference for those restaurants," said Schulz.

He also recommends buying gift cards and immediately putting them in a drawer.

"It doesn't mean you won't ever use that gift card," said Schulz. "If you can hold off on using them to ride out the pandemic a little bit, it can be a really good way to support that restaurant."

Finally, most restaurants do pay fees on credit card charges.

"If you want to help out a little bit more it can be a good idea to pay in cash," said Schulz.

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