- More than 3.7 million diners used the Yelp app to dine out in May 2021— its highest totals ever — surpassing pre-pandemic highs, according to a company blog post. The number of diners seated via Yelp was up by 48% in May 2021 compared to May 2019.
- Additionally, new restaurant and food businesses are opening at near pre-pandemic levels. Almost 6,600 restaurants and food businesses opened in May 2021, representing a 42% increase from a year ago and down by just 21% from May 2019. Reopenings are also spiking, with nearly 16,500 reopenings in April, which is the highest number since April 2020. Reopenings leveled out in May at 5,000.
- Pent-up demand for restaurants has been building for months, and so have consumer comfort levels around dining out. But what's especially positive about this data is that diners seated are surpassing pre-pandemic levels in nearly every state and all but a few major metropolitan markets, which could signal a nationwide recovery.
Previous Yelp data shows that consumer demand for dining out is both strong and holding steady, with reservations up 46% in April compared to April 2019 and up 23,000% compared to April 2020, as reported by The Washington Post. This consumer confidence is likely fueled by growing vaccination numbers and rapidly relaxing dining room restrictions.
The combined surge in restaurant reopenings and diners eating out is reflected in industry sales, with foodservice establishments generating $64.9 billion in sales in April — 2% below February 2020 levels. These trends no doubt offer a silver lining after a devastating year in which the industry lost about $280 billion in sales and tens of thousands of restaurants.
Still, that's not to say there haven't been hurdles in that recovery — namely a major labor shortage. Though consumers are returning to dining rooms in droves, the number of workers leaving the industry is at an all-time high. As such, restaurants experiencing high demand may not be able to staff appropriately to keep up with customers.
While employers have said the extra federal unemployment benefits have kept workers from returning to the job, employees say low wages and tips and concerns over safety have driven them to consider entering other industries. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight for the industry's labor pressures, either. About one-third of restaurant workers have already left for a different industry following a year of instability, and, in April, 349,000 accommodation and foodservice jobs opened up, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.