Feb 8, 2024 - News

Restaurants rebound in San Antonio post-pandemic, but struggles persist

Data: Yelp; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Yelp; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of new restaurant listings in the San Antonio area rose 4% from 2019 to 2023, according to new Yelp data shared with Axios.

By the numbers: 536 restaurants were newly listed on Yelp in 2023 in the San Antonio area, compared to 518 in 2019.

Why it matters: The numbers are a promising sign for San Antonio's restaurant scene, which has struggled after the COVID-19 pandemic when business halted and many local staples were forced to shutter for good.

  • Yelp's data showed 424 newly listed spots in 2020, an 18% dip from the previous year.

What they're saying: "The restaurant industry has proven to be resilient throughout the pandemic, with the industry seeing higher restaurant openings in 2023 than pre-pandemic levels for the first time," says Clifford Cate, vice president and general manager of Yelp Restaurants.

Yes, but: The data stops at January 2023 and does not include the December wave of closings that hit the San Antonio food scene.

  • The closures claimed Sari-Sari Supper Club and prompted other businesses, like Carnitas Lonja and Sangria on the Burg, to make way for new concepts.
  • Conversely, January 2024 marked the openings of Hook Land & Sea, Mi Gente, an extension of Box Street All Day and Greenhouse, with more to come.

Alan Williams helps run San Antonio Restaurants, a nine-year-old Facebook group with nearly 200,000 members dedicated to alerting us about openings, closings and recommendations. He tells Axios he's noticed a shift in business models.

  • "The restaurant industry was destined to change after the pandemic. The new restaurants that are opening are mostly fast-casual restaurants. The restaurant industry will always be here, but it will look much different as we go forward."
  • He points to Mi Gente's walk-up counter and Saucy Birds — chef Caesar Zepeda's shift from Sangria on the Burg, which also runs a counter service format.

The bottom line: The pandemic was gut-wrenching for owners and patrons, but San Antonio's growing number of openings could be a sign of what's to come.

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