Food Away From Home Spending Dropped During Pandemic

The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the temporary closures of restaurants in the United States, prompting a decline in Food Away From Home Spending. Spending decreased at each of the nine types of food-away-from-home outlets measured in the USDA Economic Research Service’s Food Expenditure Series from 2019 to 2020. Although existing infrastructure, such as drive-through services, enabled limited-service restaurants to comply with pandemic safety measures, these establishments still saw a 6.7-percent decline in annual spending. Full-service restaurants, which accounted for more Food Away From Home spending than all other outlets from 1997 to 2019, experienced a decrease in spending of 31.7 percent in 2020. This was partly due to pandemic-related closures during some of the year. Hotels and motels, recreational places, and drinking establishments also experienced closures and capacity restrictions throughout much of 2020. Food spending fell 42.9 percent at hotels and motels, 37.7 percent at recreational places, and 40.7 percent at drinking places.

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