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Restaurants in US struggle with large increase in diners: survey

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A couple dines indoors at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, which reopened in May after being closed for more than a year. AFP

Restaurants in US struggle with large increase in diners: survey

Americans are dining out in record numbers as pandemic restrictions lift, with restaurants struggling to keep up with demand amid a labour shortage, data released by review site Yelp showed on June 15.

Yelp data showed more than 3.7 million diners seated using its app in May 2021, the highest number ever, surpassing pre-pandemic highs, according to Yelp restaurant marketplace manager Devon Wright.

The number of diners was 48 per cent higher than in May 2019, according to the data.

The surge comes with a growing number of Americans having been vaccinated, and local governments gradually lifting mask mandates and limits on indoor dining.

“As diners head back into restaurants, new restaurants and food businesses are opening at near pre-pandemic levels,” Wright said in a blog post.

“Nearly 6,600 new restaurant and food businesses opened in May 2021, a 42-per-cent increase from May 2020 and down by only 21 per cent from May 2019.”

Yelp also counted 16,500 reopenings in April 2021, with that number dipping to 5,000 in May.

The jump in restaurant dining has been especially pronounced in some cities seeing more tourism such as Honolulu (up 853 per cent) and Las Vegas (up 589 per cent), Yelp said.

Wright said restaurants are increasingly turning to technology to help manage the spike in light of difficulties in finding workers. This includes more use of digital menus, contactless payments, smartphone waitlists, reservations and table management.

Pandemic restrictions have been gradually lifted in the US with just over 52 per cent of the population, or 174 million people, have already received at least one dose, according to health officials.

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