Jan 23, 2023 - COVID

If dinner reservations feel harder to score these days in Charlotte, it’s because they are

Charlotte’s restaurant industry is doing better than the national average, according to recent data by OpenTable.

Our team has noticed dinner reservations fill up weeks in advance, even on usually slow weekdays. OpenTable’s data gives us an idea as to why: Charlotte diners are coming back in droves.

Why it matters: The restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and Charlotte restaurant owners predicted post-COVID recovery would take years. But these numbers show that more people are dining out, a possible sign that the city is recovering from the pandemic faster than anticipated.

Context: In March 2020, OpenTable released its State of the Industry site to track how COVID impacted restaurants around the world. OpenTable compared the same day in a particular week in 2019 with the same day in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

  • The data shows that seated dining reservations in Charlotte decreased in 2020 but began to recover to 2019 levels in the summer of 2021, followed by a significant dip in December 2021.
  • The data also shows that our city’s restaurants are welcoming more diners than most cities across the state. Raleigh, for example, saw 9% fewer reservations made in October 2022 compared to 2019, while Charlotte saw 17% more that same month.

Yes, but: Other lingering effects from the pandemic like rising rent, labor shortages and supply-chain headaches continue to test local restaurant owners. Many beloved restaurants, both old and new, closed in 2022. And inflation is impacting virtually every part of the restaurant experience — customers are paying more these days for meals.

The bottom line: We’re still feeling the pains caused by the pandemic, but Charlotte’s growth will continue to attract new local restaurants and national chains.

Go deeper: If you’ve got a hankering for a good meal, check out our food guides, including our list of Best Restaurants and Best New Restaurants.

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