August 13, 2020

Association Refutes Recent NYT Article That Grossly Mischaracterizes Safety of Restaurants

Washington, DC (August 13, 2020) – The National Restaurant Association today issued a statement in response to a New York Times article published August 12, 2020, by Jennifer Steinhauer noting the misleading nature of the statistics provided and the inaccurate representation of the safety of restaurants within the piece.

“Now, more than ever, we all need to be making data-driven decisions about our activities outside of the home, and we need that data to be presented without a bias. 

“Unfortunately, the data presented in this story was interpreted to support the writer’s conclusion. For example, while the story notes that in Maryland 9% of COVID cases can be traced to restaurants, it fails to communicate that almost twice as many people who tested positive were traced back to family gatherings. That’s a critical piece of the dataset that is missing. 

“In Louisiana, an ‘outbreak’ is considered to be two or more cases that have visited a site within 14 days; however the article has no mention of the determining factors behind the transmission. Furthermore, correlation between outbreaks and actual number of cases cannot be made. For example, in the data cited from Louisiana, there were 38 ‘outbreaks’ in restaurants resulting in 167 cases. Yet, in casinos there were 7 ‘outbreaks’ resulting in 200 cases. What the data does tell us is that customer behavior outside of the venue is a major contributing factor in transmission.    

“We urge all consumers to carefully review the full set of available data when making decisions about dining out. The National Restaurant Association has established a website,, where diners can learn more about the steps restaurants are taking to keep them safe. 

“Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA’s Food Code and throughout the pandemic, have taken significant steps to meet new social distancing guidelines required by state and federal officials. We all have responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing. We continue to urge restaurants to follow the National Restaurant Association’s Reopening Guidance in conjunction with the CDC, FDA, and their state and local guidance. Additionally, we ask all of our customers to help us keep our employees and their fellow diners safe by following all of the existing guidelines.”

About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises more than 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.5 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit and find @WeRRestaurants on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.