The Restaurant and Catering Association, Mastercard SpendingPulse™ and Uber Eats have combined data and insights to unearth the key challenges and opportunities for restaurants in Australia in the wake of the pandemic and as they prepare for further economic uncertainty. 

The resulting Pulse Check: Restaurant Report 2022 has been augmented by thousands of submissions from consumers and hundreds more from restaurant owners and illuminates the legacy impacts of Covid-19 on Australian small business owners working in the hospitality sector. 

Amid a challenging macroeconomic environment with inflation and forecast additional interest rate rises, the findings point towards significant business remodeling (92% of restaurant owners in Australia remodeled their business during lockdown) and notable shifts in attitudes from Australian restaurant owners looking to negotiate the post-pandemic world.

While there are some cautiously encouraging signs – like the sector having grown by more than a quarter (up 27.4% on the same time three years ago*) and more than half of the surveyed restaurants saying the revenue from online food delivery platforms has grown since November 2021, there are unquestionably still some challenges.

The report revealed that all respondents had encountered legacy pains from Covid-19 with 96% of restaurant owners in Australia experiencing a decline in dine-in customers relative to their pre-covid levels. The other top challenges were – finding staff (32%), a decline in tourist travel (31%) and operating costs (29%) the most frequently flagged challenges. 

Loyalty is emerging as a new focus area for restaurant owners who have turned to platforms like Uber Eats who helped unlock $889 million in additional value during a challenging 2021. With 8 in 10 of the surveyed restaurants using online food delivery services there’s been a notable shift towards retaining customers – with 27% identifying it as their biggest benefit from online food delivery. 

The joint report is available to download here

General Manager, Uber Eats ANZ Bec Nyst said –

“The last two years have been incredibly challenging for restaurant owners and their staff. Despite pandemic restrictions easing, clear and present challenges remain for many small business operators. This report surfaces three recurring challenges for our partners. Staff shortages, the impact of inflation on the costs of goods and a tourist trade that has yet to fully rebound. 

“As the sector addresses legacy pains of Covid, it’s encouraging to see that restaurant owners have retained an optimistic view and have increasingly embraced the role technology can play in their continued recovery.”

CEO, Restaurant and Catering Association, Belinda Clarke said –  

“With 9 in 10 Aussie restaurant owners innovating and remodelling their business during lockdown, this report not only shows the monumental challenges that hospitality faced during this period– but it also shows their amazing ability to adapt. The problems resulting from COVID-19 may linger for years to come, but it’s quite clear the industry is committed to change and adopting new technologies to still stay profitable.”

Vice President, Head of Digital Partnerships Mastercard Australasia, Dan Martin said –

“The restaurant industry is well on the road to recovery. Mastercard SpendingPulse™ insights show that while retail sales remain strong, they’re stabilising as consumers resume spending on passion areas and shared experiences like dining.”

* According to Mastercard SpendingPulse™, which reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets around the world. The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check. As such, SpendingPulse™ insights do not in any way contain, reflect or relate to actual Mastercard operational or financial performance, or specific payment-card-issuer data.