As workers maintain their hybrid schedules , weekday office occupancy has stalled at around 48% of pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the city’s comptroller’s office.
“Over the past years, we’ve seen countless restaurants close as casualties of the pandemic, as additional economic troubles continue to complicate business in New York City,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
In a post-holiday survey by the Alliance of around 300 restaurant and bar owners and operators, a third said their overall revenue was lower than anticipated during the holiday season.
“While the situation is much better than it was over the last few years, our survey results show that for many restaurants, business is lagging, not back to where it should be, and many restaurants and businesses are concerned about the uncertainty that 2023 may bring,” Rigie said.
Restaurant sales at Ruth’s Hospitality Restaurant Group, which is based in Florida, have shown the steakhouse has been able to bounce back from the early days of the pandemic. The company reported an increase in restaurant revenue between 2019 and 2022, according to its latest quarterly filings, to $105.8 million in restaurant sales in the 13 weeks ending in September 2022, compared to $97 million in the same time period in 2019. At the same time, their food and beverage costs increased over three years, from $28.8 million in 2019 to $33.5 million in 2022. Yet company executives were already aware of the challenges facing the midtown location.
“Our Manhattan restaurant continues to be challenged, albeit it had some green shoots, but it continues to be challenged over the long haul,” said Kristy Chipman, Ruth’s Chris CFO and CEO, during the company’s third-quarter earnings call in November. She said that, along with a Boston location, the 51st street steakhouse’s challenges are “much more tied to the return of work.”
In December, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul presented a “New” New York action plan to revitalize the city. The plan included proposals to turn the city’s central business districts—like Midtown—into “24/7 destinations,” increase the city’s housing stock by converting offices to apartments , and improve public transit.
“There’s no secret that the office workers have not returned at the same frequency,” said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance. “But depending on the restaurant, depending on the offerings… Some of our restaurants are doing better than they did in 2019.”