Looking at some of the data in this LA Times piece about difficulties in the restaurant game, I’m actually pretty surprised that the industry has been able to hang in as well as it has. I suppose birth/death has a lot to do with that (new restaurants opening versus closing, keeping aggregate number stable).
Now the real dropping off of total restaurants seems to have begun:
Nationwide, the number of restaurants dropped in 2010 for the first time in more than a decade, according to NPD, falling 5,202 to 579,416.
California accounted for nearly a third of that drop, Riggs said. Including fast food, there were about 73,800 restaurants in the state in March, down about 1,500 from a year earlier. Most of the decline was in the five-county Southern California area. Hardest hit were full-service restaurants, those where waiters take orders and bring food to tables.
Lack of customer traffic is very tough to overcome, although many restaurants try specials and discounts. What would really push a lot of these businesses off the cliff for good would be a real rise in the cost of food commodities. Thankfully that isn’t occurring. Oh wait –