US Restaurant Traffic Suddenly Craters Amid Second Wave Fears

After three months of slow but consistent improvement in restaurant dining data in the US and across the globe, in its latest update on "the state of the restaurant industry", OpenTable today reported the biggest drop in seated restaurant diners (from online, phone and walk-in reservations) since the depth of the global shutdown in March.

As shown in the OpenTable graphic below, on Sunday, June 14, restaurant traffic suddenly tumbled, sliding from a -66.5% y/y decline as of June 13 to -78.8% globally.

This was mostly due to a sharp drop in US restaurant diners, which plunged by 13% - from -65% to -78% - the biggest one day drop since the start of the shutdown in the US, and the second biggest one day drop on record.

The drop was uniform across most US states, which saw a traffic dip between 10% and 25% overnight.

While the upward trend in dining was barely impacted by the roughly 3 weeks of protests across the US, the most likely catalyst was the widespread media coverage of spiking coronavirus cases across several states including California, Florida and Arizona. And while not necessarily surprising, the speed and severity of the decline demonstrates just how quickly any V-shaped recovery can collapse under its own weight if enough people become convinced that the pandemic is making a comeback.