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Diners seated via Yelp surge above pre-pandemic levels

June 15, 2021, 11:00 AM UTC

As more and more Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and local economies reopen, diners are returning to restaurants in droves.

Over 3.7 million diners were seated via Yelp in May 2021—the highest number ever, surpassing pre-pandemic highs, according to the crowdsourced reviews hub. The number of diners seated via Yelp was up 48% in May 2021 compared with May 2019. Looking at party size, smaller groups of two to three patrons did begin to rebound sooner, but larger parties quickly followed and bounced back even stronger—by more than 50% compared to May 2019 and more than 1,000% compared to March 2020.

There were nearly 16,500 restaurant and food business reopenings in April 2021—the highest since April 2020. And 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.

Between March and May 2021, Yelp has seen a 59% increase in new restaurants adopting the company’s front-of-house technology, compared with January and February 2021. Yelp explains many restaurant managers are leaning on a combination of new software and mobile devices—like digital menus, contactless check-ins, and other items bundled within Yelp Kiosk—as the industry is grappling with a labor shortage.

Long story short: Diners are returning to restaurants for outdoor and indoor dining far faster than restaurants can manage rehiring to serve at full capacity and normal, pre-pandemic business hours.

“By automating front-of-house operations like the diner check-in process, wait lists, 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 waitstaff to better focus on providing a great customer experience,” wrote Devon Wright, general manager of Yelp Restaurants, in a blog post on Tuesday.

Yelp data shows diners seated in many states and cities exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with some states up by more than 1,000% in May 2021 compared with May 2019.
Courtesy of Yelp

The states that saw the biggest spikes in diners seated were Idaho (up 1,015%), Wyoming (up 1,002%), Nevada (up 513%), Delaware (up 422%), Alabama (up 386%), Mississippi (up 364%), Hawaii (up 335%), and Colorado (up 321%). Texas—one of the first states to lift mask mandates and reopen businesses to full capacity—saw a 143% spike in diners seated compared with May 2019. The biggest hotspots in the Lone Star state: Houston (up 213%), San Antonio (up 200%), Dallas (up 126%), and Austin (up 85%).

Nationwide, among the cities with the biggest spike in May 2021 compared with May 2019 were Honolulu (up 853%), Las Vegas (up 589%), and Denver (up 320%).

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