As we head into the summer, nearly 65% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the vaccine, many local restrictions and mask mandates have been lifted, and restaurants have seen diner demand surge. In fact, the increased interest in dine-in service at restaurants has grown so much that many restaurants are facing a staff shortage. With more new restaurants opening and many that were once temporarily closed reopening, restaurant owners are turning to technology to help manage their front-of-house in light of the current labor shortage.
Yelp data reflects this surge, with more than 3.7 million diners seated via Yelp* in May 2021 – the highest ever, surpassing pre-pandemic highs. In fact, the number of diners seated via Yelp was up 48% in May 2021 compared to May 2019. We saw a similar increase in diners seated in April 2021.
Restaurant and Food Businesses are Recovering
As diners head back into restaurants, new restaurant and food businesses are opening at near pre-pandemic levels. Nearly 6,600 new restaurant and food businesses opened in May 2021, a 42% increase from May 2020 and down by only 21% from May 2019.
Yelp data also shows a significant spike in food and restaurant business reopenings, with nearly 16,500 reopenings in April 2021 — the highest since April of 2020 – and leveling out with more than 5,000 reopening their doors in May 2021.
Diners Seated in Many States and Metros are Exceeding Pre-Pandemic Levels
Wyoming and Idaho had the highest increases in diners seated with both states up more than 1,000% in May 2021 compared to May 2019. Other states where we saw huge spikes in diners seated include Nevada (up 513%), Delaware (up 422%), Alabama (up 386%), Mississippi (up 364%), Hawaii (up 335%) and Colorado (up 321%). Notably, Texas, which was one of the first states to lift mask mandates and reopen businesses to 100% capacity, has seen a spike with diners seated via Yelp up 143% compared to May 2019 — specifically, Houston (up 213%), San Antonio (up 200%), Dallas (up 126%), and Austin (up 85%) are all seeing significant rises in diners going back to restaurants.
While some larger metros are still behind in diner volume, we are seeing many other cities bounce back and perform better than in pre-pandemic months, even after many experienced a second dip in the winter when COVID-19 cases increased. Cities that have seen a huge spike from May 2021 compared to May 2019 include Honolulu (up 853%), Las Vegas (up 589%), and Denver (up 320%), among others.
Restaurants Leveraging Technology Through the Recovery
We saw the resilience of restaurant owners as they turned to technology to help them stay open early in the pandemic — with digital menus, contactless payments, virtual experiences, and more. Now, restaurants are adopting technology to help them better endure the labor shortage. By automating front-of-house operations like the diner check-in process, waitlists, reservations and table management, the savings on labor costs can help improve both employee retention and the talent pool for restaurant jobs, all while still providing a seamless experience for diners and enabling wait staff to better focus on providing a great customer experience.
At Yelp, we are building on existing restaurant technologies such as Waitlist, our table management software, to help restaurants increase front-of-house efficiency and stay connected to diners through enhanced guest management capabilities. Most recently, we announced a number of new features to help restaurants front-of-house operations through the recovery, including new takeout management features. In June 2020, we released guest management features, such as capacity management, manual wait controls and QR codes to join the waitlist.
Today, Yelp Kiosk, which has also been leveraged throughout the pandemic, is helping restaurants across the country manage the current hiring crisis by automating check-in, waitlist management, and contacting diners when their table is ready. Restaurants that are fortunate enough to have front-of-house staff are using Kiosk to keep them focused on guest hospitality and customer service. In fact, in March through May 2021 we saw a 59% increase in new adoption of our front-of-house technology compared to January and February 2021, as restaurants grapple with labor shortage at the same time as diner demand surges.
We plan to continue implementing new features to address the current and evolving restaurant industry needs. In the coming months, we’ll be announcing new integrations that focus on restaurant loyalty and guest management.
Diners Seated Via Yelp*
Diners Seated via Yelp includes diners seated via the Yelp app or Yelp on web, it excludes diners seated via Waitlist widgets on restaurant websites, walk-in diners, phone calls and other host adds.
New Business Openings
Openings are determined by counting new businesses listed on Yelp, which are added by either business owners or Yelp users.
On each date, starting with March 1, 2020, we count U.S. businesses that were temporarily closed and reopened through May 31, 2021. A reopening is of a temporary closure, whether by using Yelp’s temporary closure feature or by editing hours, excluding closures due to holidays. Each reopened business is counted at most once, on the date of its most recent reopening.
Openings and reopenings are based on when they’re indicated on Yelp, as such, the data may lag slightly from the true opening or reopening date due to a delay in reporting from consumers and business owners.