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The Effects of COVID-19 on Texas Restaurants

The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge faced by the United States since World War II.  The virus and the government shutdown and stay at home mandates have had a powerful negative impact on the U.S economy. Texas businesses, often immune to national economic downturns, are not immune to the effects of COVID-19. With this in mind, the Hobby School of Public Affairs is undertaking a series of surveys targeting vital businesses in the Lone Star State in the wake of the pandemic.

The first survey in the series concentrates on restaurants and bars. At the start of the year, one out of every ten working Texans had a job in the restaurant industry, underscoring the pivotal role the industry plays in the state economy. In order to conduct the survey, the Hobby School partnered with the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA). A representative group of restaurant and bar owners were surveyed between April 8 and April 22 via an online survey sent to their e-mail address on file with the TRA.   All together the 340 restaurant and bar owners surveyed own 1,342 restaurants and as of March 1 employed 44,910 Texans. 

Key Findings

  • Ninety percent of the owners said sales dropped between March 23 and April 6 compared to the previous year while 7% weren’t in business a year ago. Only 3% reported higher sales
  • More than half of owners said it will take their businesses nine months or longer to recover, and 3% percent said they don’t expect to ever recover.
  • Eighty percent of owners have laid off at least some employees, and 86% have cut worker hours.
  • Forty-one percent of the owners have temporarily closed one or more of their restaurants while 19% have permanently closed one or more locations.
  • Restaurants that remain in business have pivoted to take-out and delivery – just 38% offered take-out before the pandemic, with even fewer offering delivery – and 25% now offer bulk food sales.



Media Release


Research Team

Principal Investigators

Mark P. Jones, Senior Research Fellow, Hobby School of Public Affairs; James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy's Fellow in Political Science, Rice University

Pablo Pinto, Director, Center for Public Policy & Associate Professor


Gail Buttorff, Co-Director, Survey Research Institute & Assistant Instructional Professor

Francisco Cantu, Co-Director, Survey Research Institute & Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Renée Cross, Senior Director & Researcher

Jim Granato, Executive Director & Professor

Richard Murray, Lanier Chair in Urban Public Policy & Professor, Department of Political Science

Yewande Olapade, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Savannah Sipole, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Agustín Vallejo, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Sunny Wong, Professor