Denver diners remain wary of restaurants, new data shows
Denver's restaurant-goers appear to have stagnated since last spring, as back-to-back COVID-19 variants took their toll on the city, new OpenTable data shows.
Of note: The figures exclude reservations booked through other services, individual restaurants and walk-ins, but track with Colorado Restaurant Association data showing 68% of local restaurants surveyed in January said their sales volume remains lower than in 2019.
Why it matters: Restaurants are one of the truest litmus tests we have when it comes to declaring a return to normal in this perpetual pandemic.
The intrigue: With the Denver metro dropping its mask and vaccine mandates, restaurateurs — and other businesses — are left wondering whether loosened regulations will change consumer behavior.
- If the Open Table data is any indication, the policy changes won't completely reset diners' comfort.
What they're saying: "We hope to see that picture change as mask mandates expire and consumers regain some confidence in indoor dining, but the damage has already been done to what should have been a sales-driven holiday season," restaurant association spokesperson Denise Mickelsen tells Axios.
Many restaurant owners "appreciated" having local governments reaffirm their businesses' mask mandates, Mickelsen says.
- But now, they will no longer have to bear the cost of providing masks to diners and staff.
The big picture: Economists estimate that the local restaurant industry won't be back to pre-pandemic levels in employment, sales or diner behavior for another two to four years — at least, Mickelsen says.
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