Pandemic Tightens Retailer Restrictions as Demand Rises

COVID-19 cases rise as more people dine out and shop on-site, while stores have trouble finding staff.

November 04, 2020

NEW YORK—As coronavirus cases rise rapidly across most of the United States, retailers and restaurants are once again wrestling with tighter restrictions and staff shortages, the Wall Street Journal reports. Unlike in the spring, this surge corresponds with an increase in demand for in-store shopping and dining.

Large chains said they have put safety measures and takeout/pickup options in place to handle COVID-19 regulations. “Are people going to be closing businesses back down, or are we going to try to work through this and move forward? Various parts of the country are handling this differently,” said David Deno, CEO of Bloomin’ Brands, parent of Outback Steakhouse.

So far, Illinois has closed restaurant dining rooms and bars in areas hard hit by the virus, which includes Chicago. California suspended indoor eating in nine counties, while New Mexico and other states have restricted late-night foodservice operations.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker this week issued an overnight stay-at-home order instructing residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., except for going to work, running critical errands, addressing health needs, and taking a walk, ABC News reports. Restaurants must close to in-person dining by 9:30 p.m, starting Friday when the new order takes effect.

Adding to the restrictions are the difficulties in keeping employees working. Some potential hires have opted to stay home because of health concerns or helping children with virtual schooling. “It’s one of the most difficult labor markets that we’ve ever experienced, even though unemployment is very high,” said David Scrivano, Little Caesars Pizza CEO.

With the busy holiday season, many retailers have added hours to keep foot traffic more spread out. A growing number of retailers have also jettisoned Thanksgiving and Black Friday in-store sales events, choosing to close completely on Thanksgiving and offering Black Friday deals over a longer period of time.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.