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Diners are returning to restaurants in record numbers, according to Yelp

In May, more than 3.7 million diners were seated via Yelp, a record for the company and a 48% increase compared to May 2019, the company announced in a blog post on Tuesday. In addition, 16,500 food and restaurant businesses reopened in April, according to Yelp, the highest number of reopenings since April 2020.

Diners seated via Yelp hit an all-time high last month. Image: Yelp.

Number of diners seated surpassed pre-pandemic levels in most states. For the majority of states, Yelp seated more customers last month than it did in May 2019, with states like Wyoming and Idaho exceeding May 2019 levels by over 1,000%.

Map of diners seated via Yelp compared to May 2019 levels.
Image: Yelp.

“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,” Yelp said in its announcement, “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.”

Labor continues to be a bottleneck. Now that we’re heading into summer and more than half of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, consumers are expressing pent-up demand for the experiences they missed out on last year. However, restaurants and other local businesses have been struggling to regain the workers they lost over the course of the pandemic, limiting their ability to fully reopen.

In May, the leisure and hospitality industry added 292,000 jobs, two-thirds of which were jobs at restaurants and bars, and average hourly earnings for employees in that sector rose to $18.09, up 5% from January alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To alleviate the situation, some restaurateurs are turning to technology to help them automate front-of-house operations like customer reservations, waitlists and table management. Between March and May 2021, Yelp saw a 59% increase in adoption of its front-of-house offerings, compared to January and February 2021.

Why we care. Last year, businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry suffered enormously as recreational activities were halted in favor of social distancing and other safety measures. Now that the nation is moving past the pandemic, consumers may be looking to make up for lost time, encouraged by the stimulus checks they may have received and more promising economic prospects as businesses continue to reopen.

Local businesses can position themselves to take advantage of this heightened consumer demand by adding attributes to their business profiles for greater discoverability, ensuring that they have a process for soliciting and responding to reviews and keeping their business profiles up to date.

And, businesses looking to streamline their processes, or ones that are just having a difficult time hiring more staff, may want to look into software platforms that can help them automate communications with customers, streamline data entry and even aid their marketing efforts.


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