A quarter of US restaurants will go out of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a forecast by OpenTable, which reported that total restaurant reservations and walk-in customers have fallen 95% over the previous year ending May 13.
The company tracks over 54,000 restaurants on its reservation site, which offers the ability to make online, walk-in, and phone reservations - but does not track data for take-out and deliveries, according to Bloomberg.
The company’s data shows that there are growing signs that patrons are willing to dine out again in states like Arizona and Texas where it’s allowed, though the numbers are still far below where they were last year.
Scottsdale showed the greatest improvement. It had zero reservations almost every day since March 21, but on May 13 this eased to a down 72% from reservations on the same day in 2019. The next most significant recoveries were in Houston and Phoenix. -Bloomberg
At the state-level, Florida showed the greatest statewide gain, with foot traffic only down 83% y/y after launching a phased reopening May 4 during which restaurants were allowed to operate at one-quarter capacity.
Indiana, which is now in phase two - allowing restaurants to operate at 50% of capacity - has come in second. The state is planning on a full reopening by the Fourth of July.
"Restaurants are complicated beasts," said Steve Hafner, CEO of OpenTable parent company, Booking Holdings. "You have to order food and supplies. You have to make sure you’ve prepped the kitchen and service areas to be easily disinfected."
According to Hafner, state unemployment benefits with the federal booster is one reason why restaurants have struggled to hire help. "A lot of people are making $1,200 a week doing nothing. That’s good pay."
Meanwhile, restaurateur Danny Meyer - who shut down all of his 19 New York restaurants on March 13, says his dining rooms will stay closed for the foreseeable future, according to Bloomberg.
"We won’t be welcoming guests into our full-service restaurants for a very long time—probably not until there’s a vaccine," he said, adding "There is no interest or excitement on my part to having a half-full dining room while everyone is getting their temperature taken and wearing masks, for not much money."
"It’s very frustrating, but it’s the only safe way to go," he added.
It’s a caution shared by fellow restaurateur Daniel Humm, who said he may not re-open Eleven Madison Park at all, and by David Chang who just announced the closing of his Chelsea restaurant Nishi and his Washington, DC, Momofuku location.
Meyer, in the meantime, is taking the first steps back into business by opening his café Daily Provisions for take out service as early as next week. The storefront, which is next to Union Square Café on East 19th St., was designed for grab-and-go coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and signature crullers. Initially, it will open for curbside pickup of breakfast items, with an expanded menu expected to follow. -Bloomberg
Meyer will likely open his Flatiron District pizza restaurant, Marta, for takeout - saying "We had been on the cusp of takeout at Daily Provisions, Marta, and Blue Smoke [the company’s barbecue spot] when we closed. It makes sense now."
"I would think about anything that is safe and profitable. If it’s not safe, we won’t do it, we all lose," he said, adding "Profitable matters, as well. The only way we can responsibly get back in the business of employing people is to not go out of business. It’s already incredibly hard to survive."