Restaurants can be more profitable after coronavirus

Landry’s CEO and Chairman Tilman Fertitta told CNBC on Tuesday that restaurants that manage to survive the coronavirus pandemic should be able to apply valuable lessons that could make their businesses more profitable. The billionaire restaurant and casino owner said 2022 “could be a spectacular year.” 

“I’ve never been one to always look out 15 months, but that’s what we have to do today,” Fertitta said on “Power Lunch.” “Because if we can get back, all companies, flat to negative 10% in same-store sales, I think these companies are going to have 10% better profits than they were going to have before this pandemic even started, because we’ve all learned to operate so much more efficiently.”

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating economic toll, and the restaurant and hospitality industries have faced the burden of government restrictions designed to slow the spread of Covid-19. Following forced closures of indoor dining in many states, restaurants have had to operate at lower capacity or make other safety modifications, adding to the operating challenges in an already low-margin industry.

In early March, when the U.S. had only about 260 confirmed coronavirus cases and before the outbreak was officially declared a pandemic, Fertitta sounded the alarm about the increasing financial difficulties being created by the coronavirus. He told CNBC his restaurant empire of over 600 locations worldwide, which before the coronavirus outbreak had about $12 million in sales per day, was losing an average of $1 million per day.

Big restaurant chains appear to be recovering faster than their smaller peers, according to a Bank of America study from July. For Fertitta’s company, he said Tuesday that “business is picking up” lately across the United States. Landry’s brands include Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Morton’s The Steakhouse. 

He pointed to the upcoming resumption of indoor dining in New York City, despite being limited to 25% capacity, as another good sign for the industry. Casinos also recently were allowed to reopen in New York state. 

However, Fertitta warned of a challenging few months ahead as the weather turns cold in many parts of the U.S. and the coronavirus coincides with seasonal influenza. 

“This could be a very rocky winter. But what I’m excited about is if we can get through the winter and see everything start improving, companies, including restaurants and hospitality and casinos, we’ve all learned to operate differently,” Fertitta said.

“What I’m trying to do is be positive. We’re going to get through this flu season, and everything is going to be OK, and we have some type of a vaccine [for Covid-19] or we’re going to continue to know how to treat this disease better,” he added. 

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