Restaurant recovery gets hit hard by Delta variant

The pandemic’s grip on the restaurant industry is starting to tighten again.

A number of metrics point to a slowdown in dining out that is alarming to this hard-hit sector that had steadily led the jobs recovery this year until the Delta variant reared its ugly head.

The government’s jobs report last week showed that the hospitality sector actually shed jobs — 42,000 at bars and restaurants alone — in August.

This comes on the heels of some worrisome data from other groups that track the industry.

OpenTable, the online reservations company, says that seated dining at US restaurants has been running at about 11 percent below 2019 levels compared with a rate of between 5 percent and six percent in late July, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

“We see a pronounced decline in late July and August,” Debby Soo, chief executive of OpenTable told the publication. “While several factors could be at play here, we believe the primary driver of the downturn is diners’ concerns about the rise in COVID cases.”

According to the latest jobs report, 42,000 at bars and restaurants were lost in August.
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

An August survey by the National Restaurant Association shows that 19 percent of adults said they completely stopped going out to restaurants while 60 percent of respondents said they had changed their restaurant use because of the Delta variant and 37 percent said they had ordered delivery or take-out instead of dining at a restaurant.

“The trends from the first half of the year are promising, but a lot of uncertainty remains in regard to the delta variant, consumer confidence, and ongoing labor challenges,” Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the trade group said in a statement.

Restaurant operators say demand for their outdoor seating remains high, but they worry about what will happen when the weather turns colder.

Restaurant reservations have reportedly been down from 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.
Restaurant reservations have reportedly been down from 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

“Most people prefer to eat outdoors,” Tracy Nieporent, director of marketing for Myriad Restaurant Group, which owns Tribecca Grill and Batard, told The Post. “But that will change with the season.”

The Manhattan eateries have not yet reopened for lunch service, Nieporent added, “and from talking to other restaurant folks, lunch seems to be weak. That may improve as office buildings fill and residents return to city life.”

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