OpenTable’s data, showing that restaurant bookings have declined 85 percent year-over-year, still shows an improvement over the almost total 100 percent decline from mid-April when everyone was quarantined.
The states hit harder by the virus, like New York and New Jersey in the continental northeast, have been seeing worse declines in restaurants.
Others, like Arizona, Alabama and Nebraska, which have begun reopening in a controlled capacity, haven’t seen as steep a decline, OpenTable reported.
The Department of Labor’s most recent jobs report stated that the leisure and hospitality sector, which encompasses food service, saw 7.7 million jobs lost over the month of April, or 47 percent of the total positions in that sector, CNBC reported. Almost 5.5 million of those were chefs, waiters, cashiers and other restaurant staff.
Restaurants have been devastated by the virus as their very business model, which depends on people coming in and taking up seats in person, has been at odds with the social distancing required to help curb the spread of the virus.
But as the economy is beginning to inch toward reopening, dining is beginning to take different forms.
In the future, eating out may include a wealth of more outside dining options, and could see restaurants sectioning off parts of parking lots to help more diners feel safe.
In Florida, Ohio, Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Connecticut, local government rulings have allowed such new tactics to flourish.
However, despite the spate in innovative practices, many restaurant owners said they don’t see operating at a fraction of their old capacity as a feasible business model, and some can’t logically offer up outside space and hope to make up for lost revenues.
Despite the rocky paths ahead, restaurant sales at many chains have begun to jump up. According to Applebee’s President John Cywinski, the demand is coming from a pent-up need for “a little indulgence now to hop in your car and experience something that hasn’t been available.”