“We expect around one in four restaurants to close and to not be able to return because of COVID,” says OpenTable CEO Debby Soo. “Unfortunately, now we think that number might even be conservative. Restaurants are going through a grueling time right now. We don’t know when it is going to come back to pre-COVID levels but it is likely to be after there is a vaccine available for people to take.”
One In Four Restaurants Closing Now Appears To Be Conservative
We expect around one in four restaurants to close and to not be able to return because of COVID (related mandates). Unfortunately, now we think that number might even be conservative. Restaurants are going through a grueling time right now. They are having to pay for their wait staff and rent is a huge cost. For restaurants to open back up any type of government aid that can be given to them would be amazing and is necessary. But also again, people have to feel comfortable being in an enclosed area and feeling safe to be around other people. With a lot of the restaurants space is a constraint.
We are thinking (about what’s going to happen in the winter when people will want to go into restaurants). It’s very much top of mind for restaurants who are right now experiencing a great surge in demand because it’s summer and dining out is so popular and prevalent. I imagine that takeout and delivery will continue to gain share, especially in the colder months. People now are much more willing to order food and get it delivered or to go and pick it up. That will be one of the main lifelines for restaurants during the colder months.
Vaccine Needed For Dining To Come All The Way Back
For dining to return all the way back to pre-COVID levels, a vaccine will be needed. However, we do see dining demand starting to pop up. We recently ran a survey at OpenTable and 25 percent of our respondents said they were dining out at least once a week. That demand is definitely there. Of course, safety precautions are very top of mind for both our restaurants and diners. They want to make sure that the restaurants are keeping both their employees and patrons safe with mask-wearing, table spacing, and all of that.
We don’t know when it is going to come back to pre-COVID levels but it is likely to be after there is a vaccine available for people to take. However, we are seeing signs of life and we know that diner demand is there. People are itching to get out and eat.
Launched Myriad Of Features In Response To COVID
We’ve recently launched a myriad of different features to adapt to the quickly changing environment around us. We launched Takeout which for diners is a really convenient way to browse a restaurant’s menu, order a meal, and pay all from your OpenTable app. For restaurants, it’s great because it is an additional revenue stream. We also released a new feature we call Safety Precautions. When you come to OpenTable for each restaurant that you are looking at going to you can see a list of all the specific safety and health initiatives that restaurants are following to keep their diners and staff safe.
We also recently launched Experiences. This can be anything from a happy hour to a prix fixe menu or a chef’s table. We are seeing a lot of demand for this, even now when people are still not completely comfortable going out to eat. There is this hunger and need for special occasions and these types of experiences.