Aug 19, 2021 - Food and Drink

Colorado restaurants prep for "second tour of battle"

Data: OpenTable; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The warm summer months helped buoy restaurants, according to new data shared exclusively with Axios, but the outlook for the coming months is less optimistic.

Driving the news: OpenTable, a popular reservation system, reports that the number of diners at Colorado restaurants is down an average of 6% through Aug. 9 compared to the same point in 2019.

  • Context: Though negative, the number reflects a steady rebound from the beginning of this year, when reservations were down at least 75%.

Yes, but: The COVID-19 Delta variant on top of the approach of colder months are threatening 2021's gradual bounce back. In 2020, OpenTable data shows reservations decreased starting in September and continued to suffer through this February.

What they're saying: The Big Red F Restaurant Group's Dave Query said he anticipates a winter like last year's and the need for businesses to get creative with outdoor dining, to-go food and more.

  • The upside is restaurants now have pandemic experience: "We are doing our second tour of battle here. We know how to wear a mask and we know how to keep people safe."

Between the lines: The summer boost in business would be even larger if it weren't for a labor shortage, restaurant industry leaders say.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing restaurants to close certain days or turn away customers because they don't have adequate staffing. Others have closed completely.

Worth noting: The Colorado Restaurant Association found in a survey conducted this summer that two-thirds of its restaurateurs accrued pandemic-related debt.

The bottom line: "As we move into the colder months, restaurants need our patience and empathy as they rebuild their teams and continue the work of keeping their employees and guests safe and well-fed," association president Sonia Riggs said in a statement to Axios.


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