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Charlotte, NC - The restaurant industry has no doubt been one of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, half of Americans said a restaurant they loved has gone out of business in the past year, according to a LendingTree survey of more than 1,000 Americans.

Besides mandated shutdowns that forced restaurants in some areas to stay closed for periods of time, eateries are also feeling the impact of changed consumer behaviors, including those who have been avoiding or cutting back on indoor dining.

Key findings

Half of Americans said a restaurant they loved has gone out of business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shuttered eateries were even more prominent in the Northeast, where 65% of respondents said the same.

Seven in 10 Americans have dined indoors at least once during the coronavirus pandemic. Those most likely to dine indoors include Gen Z (83%), six-figure earners (82%) and those living in the South (75%).

Nearly 60% of consumers have become big tippers, including at restaurants (28%), for food delivery (26%) and/or for takeout (17%). However, 23% said they did not tip at all the last time they picked up takeout from a restaurant, and 10% didn't tip the last time they ordered food delivery.

Many consumers dine out with strings attached. For example, 25% will only dine out with those in their immediate household, and 20% will only visit a restaurant if they can sit outdoors. And, they take safety protocols seriously: 41% said they've left a restaurant because it was overcrowded or people weren't wearing masks.

A third of consumers said their stance on dining out during the pandemic has caused tension with friends or family.

"The pandemic has been an absolute catastrophe for the restaurant business," said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst for LendingTree, especially smaller, family-run establishments. "So many have closed and so many more are teetering on the edge and will likely continue to until we see a major decrease in COVID-19 cases and these restaurants are open to their full capacity. That's likely not happening anytime soon."

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