Feb 8, 2022 - Business

Restaurants still contending with COVID surges

Data: OpenTable; Note: Data for 2020–2022 use 2019 as a baseline. Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Business at Nashville restaurants has been erratic during the pandemic, booming one month and nosediving the next.

  • Data from OpenTable, which compares on-platform reservations during the pandemic with 2019 numbers, shows Nashvillians backed away from in-person dining during COVID-19 surges.

Why it matters: The whiplash has tested local restaurants struggling to adjust staffing and supply levels to meet demand, which could shift dramatically in a matter of days.

What they're saying: Jake Mogelson, managing partner at Butcher & Bee in East Nashville, compared the experience to building a sandcastle on the beach.

  • "You wake up the next morning and either someone has kicked it over or the tide has come in and washed it away and you have to start all over again," Mogelson tells Axios. "It's very mentally exhausting."

State of play: The Omicron variant made an already slow time of year even slower, Mogelson says. OpenTable shows Nashville reservations dipped in January as cases spiked.

What we're watching: Mogelson says he's hopeful Valentine's Day coinciding with sliding case counts will signal a return to the packed dining rooms they enjoyed in the months after vaccines arrived.

  • The restaurant is "looking to hedge our bets and create a system of safety nets" just in case. They're renovating their patio and adding heaters for diners who feel more comfortable outside.
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