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The State of American Restaurants, by City: The Catastrophe of the 2nd Wave

Despite the rampant indoorification of outdoor dining.

By Wolf Richter | 29 November 2020

WOLF STREET — The second wave of the Pandemic is gripping the restaurant business that had already been battered by the first wave. Given the exploding infection rates across the US, restaurants had to dial back their services, and in a number of cities even outdoor dining is now off-limits. And in many cities where it’s not off-limits, the winter weather makes it very difficult, despite the conceptually dubious indoorification of outdoor dining, with sidewalk buildings fashioned of plastic sheets, plexiglass, wood, and steel.

The number of “seated diners,” a daily measure OpenTable provides to track walk-ins and diners with reservations, has been dropping since the end of October, compared to the same weekday in the same week last year. At the end of October, the seven-day moving average of the number of seated diners across the US was down 40% from a year earlier. For the seven days through November 28, the number of seated diners was down by 56%, the lowest since early August. The reading of “-100%” in April, meaning essentially no seated diners due to the lockdowns, is once again playing out in some cities, and we’ll get to them in a moment:

The data on seated diners is based on a sample of 20,000 restaurants that shared the information with OpenTable, and includes walk-ins and diners with reservations. […]

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