We knew that the mandated dine-in restaurant closures established on March 16 were going to hit the local hospitality industry hard, and now we have a clearer picture of just how hard. EatDenver, a network of 250 independent Denver restaurants, and the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) each sent surveys to member restaurants asking about closures and layoffs. Their results reveal the same thing: Local restaurants are hurting. Badly.

Based on the CRA survey with 256 respondents statewide, 80 percent of restaurants have laid off workers, with 63 percent of those laying off more than 70 percent of their staff. For an industry that employs 294,000 people statewide—nearly 10 percent of our total employment—the impact is significant. The CRA estimates that of the 235,000 people employed in food and beverage establishments, more than 150,000 have been laid off or furloughed. “In terms of layoffs, the restaurant industry is being hollowed out,” CRA president and CEO Sonia Riggs says.

The CRA survey also found that 43 percent of restaurants have temporarily closed to comply with stay-at-home orders, and 3 percent have permanently closed. If the mandated dine-in closures continue beyond 30 days, 12 percent reported they may have to permanently shut down.

Colorado’s restaurant industry seems to be faring about the same as the nation’s as a whole. A National Restaurant Association survey of 4,000 owners revealed that 70 percent have laid off employees, 44 percent have temporarily closed, and 3 percent have permanently closed.

Last week’s $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill offers some relief for restaurant workers and operators in the form of expanded unemployment benefits and small business loans to cover payroll, rent, and other expenses. But will it be enough to save the industry?

“We believe the federal relief bill, or CARES Act, will staunch the bleeding to some extent and give many restaurants enough to scrape by for a few more weeks,” Riggs says. “We’re hoping to see the federal government take up another phase of relief, though, to provide further assistance with cash flow issues, and introduce measures that will enable restaurants to ramp back up quickly once it’s safe to open their doors [to in-person dining] again.”

Survey Results:

The Colorado Restaurant Association sent its survey to its member email list and posted it on social media. The survey received 256 respondents, 85 percent of which were independent restaurants.

  • 80 percent of restaurants have laid off workers
  • 75 percent have reduced employee hours
  • 43 percent have temporarily closed
  • 2.7 percent have permanently closed
  • Within the next 30 days, 57 percent said they’ll consider temporarily closing; 12 percent said they’ll consider permanently closing
  • 63 percent have laid off at least 70 percent of their staff; 34 percent have laid off more than 90 percent

EatDenver sent a survey to all 250 independent Denver restaurants in its network. They received 52 responses, representing 177 restaurant units.

  • 69 percent of restaurants, at the time of the survey, reported that they closed* (Not open for delivery or takeout.)
  • 83 percent of employees were reported to be laid off/out of work

*Since the survey was filled out, some restaurants re-opened with takeout.

Want to Help Colorado’s Independent Restaurants?
Order takeout for delivery or pickup, or find other ways to support the industry here.

Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.