OpenTable Data Shows How Transformative 2020 Was for Restaurants

This year, restaurants kept doing what they always do: hustling, creating, and feeding our souls. And they did it despite significant hardships. As 2020 comes to an end, OpenTable data reveals just how much the restaurant industry was hit by COVID-19. The results are striking — restaurant closures are up 32 percent in the U.S. due to the pandemic. But the data shows something else, too: Diners have never been more grateful for all restaurants do for us.

Here’s how we interacted with restaurants in 2020

Sadly, restaurant closures are up 32 percent in the U.S. and 28 percent globally due to the pandemic. Restaurants have always operated under thin margins, and now curfews, capacity limits, and safety costs have made survival even tougher.

Diners showed up for restaurants in many ways, though. Outdoor dining in the U.S. has gone from less than one percent of all seated parties from August to November 2019 to over 12 percent for those same months in 2020. October was one of the most hopeful months for the industry, featuring the days with the largest number of seated reservations (October 17) and highest volume of takeout orders (October 30) since April. Since enacting the Open Door program waiving fees for restaurants, OpenTable has helped seat more than 75 million diners at no cost to restaurants.

Here’s what to expect in 2021

Diners are ready to show up in full force for restaurants in 2021. According to an OpenTable diner survey conducted in mid-October 2020, 52 percent of respondents say they think they’ll dine out in 2021 more than they did in 2020, with 28 percent of diners expecting to resume regular dining behavior in April 2021 or later in the year.

Come the new year, safety precautions will still loom large. In the U.S., 43 percent of diners say the most important factor when dining out in 2021 is that restaurants have regulated health and safety measures. Good food trails far behind as the next important factor at 25 percent. In contrast, a renowned chef or owner, price, and location ranked among the lowest priorities among survey respondents, at 2 percent each.

Here’s how to continue supporting restaurants

More than ever, diners are grateful for restaurants and everything they do, with 60 percent of survey respondents saying they have more appreciation for restaurants and their staff than they did prior to the pandemic — one of the most heartening shifts this year.

There are myriad ways to show that gratitude by supporting restaurants through COVID-19:

  • Patronize restaurants. Whether through dine-in or takeout, eating a restaurant meal is the best way to show support.
  • Sign the RESTAURANTS Act. Restaurateurs and diners can show their support by sending a pre-written letter to their reps in Congress urging them to pass this crucial bi-partisan legislation.
  • Buy gift cards or merchandise. When we can’t gather as we might like, gifts are still a fun way to connect with those we care about. And when they go one step further to support restaurants, they can help spread the love all around.
  • Contribute to industry funds. From World Central Kitchen to the James Beard Foundation Relief Fund, industry funds are a direct way to provide support to restaurant survival.
  • Share the love on social media. Talking about your favorite restaurants and the need to support them will encourage others to, too.

Since the pandemic began in the U.S. last March, OpenTable has spearheaded a number of efforts to support the industry, including waiving subscription fees and cover fees and developing a suite of products to help restaurateurs and diners:

  • Making reservations available for bars and wineries, schools, grocery stores
  • Implementing Safety Precautions so restaurants can communicate what measures they’re taking to protect diners and hosting
  • Launching Experiences so restaurants can show how they’ve pivoted to unique offerings, such as set menus, happy hours and deals, and other special dining experiences due to COVID-19, among others.
  • Offering Takeout free of service fees to diners and restaurants, giving diners a way to bring their favorite restaurants home.
  • Sharing reservation data to help the industry and stakeholders understand the true impact COVID-19 has had on restaurants.

If you run or own a restaurant, see how you can save money in 2021, stay updated on new features, and stay on top of trends.

About the Survey:
The survey was conducted online by more than 43,000 OpenTable diners aged 18 and older across the US from October 6-8, 2020.

OT Recovery Data Methodology:
OpenTable data is based on seated diners from online reservations, phone reservations and walk-ins between April 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020.

OT Outdoor Dining Data Methodology:
OpenTable looked at seated diners on a week by week basis for the last 3 months (August through November 2020). To compare year over year, OpenTable looked at seated diners for the same time period in 2019 (August through November 2019).

OT Restaurant Closure Data Methodology:
OpenTable looked at the average percent of restaurants that left OpenTable’s network of 30,000+ restaurants in the U.S. due to going out of business as-of November 2020 compared to the same percentage as-of March 2020 when the pandemic first began to see how COVID-19 impacted the percent of closures.