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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Thursday, December 03, 2020  01:05 PM  (44)

Pandemic Impacts on Pittsburgh's Restaurant Industry

Across the nation, some of the worst-hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic include restaurants and related food service industries.  At the beginning of 2020, there were 4,226 restaurants and other eating places across the Pittsburgh region.  In addition, the region had just under 600 establishments categorized as drinking places (alcoholic beverages) and 445 establishments categorized as special food services - a category that includes caterers, food carts and related types of businesses providing mobile food services.

Together these regional food service and drinking places employed over 88 thousand workers in October 2019. As of October 2020, the sector employed just over 57 thousand workers, a decline of over 31 thousand workers, or 35% below year-ago levels. While employment levels in the sector have increased since April, when job losses reached their peak, the most recent gains came between April and June of this year.  Since June, employment levels across the sector have remained relatively flat and significantly below levels before the onset of the pandemic.

Within food service industries, one of the worst-hit subsectors includes full-service restaurants where regional employment remains over 54% below year-ago levels. Full-service restaurants provide food services to patrons who order and are served while seated (i.e., waiter/waitress service) and typically pay after eating. At the lowest levels in April 2020, employment at full-service restaurants had contracted by over 80%. The smallest employment declines within food service industries are currently in limited-service restaurants, a category that includes fast-food restaurants and most restaurants that do not have table service. Employment in regional limited-service restaurants  is down just over 11% as of October 2020 compared to the year-ago period. Employment data specific to bars or special food services is not available due to confidentiality restrictions in the data compiled here.  

Year Over Year Employment Change, Pittsburgh MSA Restaurant-Related Industries

  Oct 2019 Oct 2020 Change
Food Services and Drinking Places (722) 88.7 57.1 -31.6 -35.6%
      Full Service Restaurants (722511) 43.4 19.9 -23.5 -54.1%
      Limited Service Restaurants (722513) 33.3 29.6 -3.7 -11.1%
      Drinking Places (7224) and Special Food Services (7223)* 12.0 7.6 -4.4 -36.7%
Industry NAICS codes are indicated in parentheses        
* Employment specific to Drinking Places (Alcoholic Beverages)  and Special Food Services industries is not available due to confidentiality restrictions in the CES data. 

Employment data here is is compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Employment Statistics (CES) program which produces detailed industry estimates of nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings of workers on payrolls. CES data is compiled from a survey of approximately 145,000 businesses and government agencies, representing approximately 697,000 individual worksites across the nation.  Data on the number of establishments come from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). Here the Pittsburgh region refers to the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area (MSA), which is currently comprised of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

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University Center for Social & Urban Research
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Pittsburgh, PA 15260   ·   412-624-5442