Diners Flock Back to Restaurants in Droves

As warmer weather returns throughout the country, many Americans are stepping out of their heavily used kitchens and heading back to restaurants. According to data from the review site Yelp, restaurant reservations are up 46 percent compared to 2019 and a whopping 23,000 percent compared to last year near the start of the pandemic. The reservation site OpenTable reports similar surges in restaurant traffic as more people receive vaccinations and restrictions ease across the country. 

“States that had restrictions on dine-in service have seen really big booms, like Texas,” said Yelp general manager Devon Wright. “Their numbers year over year are really impressive. And then there are states like Florida that had fewer restrictions for a long time.” Diners are especially flocking to restaurants in smaller cities in states like Nevada, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and others. Meanwhile, upscale eateries in cities like Seattle and San Francisco are struggling to attract diners, which could be an indication that some Americans moved away from expensive metropolises during the pandemic. 

But while many of the nation’s eateries are steadily getting busier, total restaurant traffic remains 16.3 percent below pre-pandemic levels. Analysts expect that these numbers will continue to improve, though, as Americans who have spent more than a year purchasing home goods seek out services instead. Of course, some restaurants are struggling to find staff to serve the influx of returning diners, a problem that experts say could be a result of the sheer number of job openings currently available. 


  1. Why are diners returning to restaurants throughout the country?
  2. What are some possible reasons why restaurants in small cities are booming while restaurants in large cities are struggling? 

Source: Laura Reiley and Andrew Van Dam, “What Are Americans Making for Dinner? Reservations,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2021.