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Tables are marked off at J. Christopher's restaurant that now offers dine-in service in Decatur, Georgia. Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

As restaurants in some areas begin reopening their doors, their performance will provide a first big test of Americans' readiness to resume life outside their homes.

Why it matters: Restaurants play a major role in just about every downtown core, shopping district and office hub. But that doesn't mean people will be ready to slide into a booth right away.

Driving the news: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday announced restaurants can reopen on Monday at 25% indoor seating capacity.

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that restaurants can reopen Friday at 25% capacity, along with retail shops, malls and movie theaters — but not all restaurant owners are ready to invite patrons into their dining rooms.
  • In Georgia, restaurants were allowed to reopen this week with restrictions, such as limits on dine-in customers and mandatory mask-wearing.
  • Tennessee restaurants are now allowed to be open at 50% capacity.
  • Colorado is easing its stay-at-home order but will still restrict restaurants to takeout and delivery.

By the numbers: Restaurants employ about 15.6 million workers, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and the industry saw its largest employment drop on record when restaurants suddenly closed last month, according to the National Restaurant Association.

What's happening: Restaurants known for delivery and take-out have weathered the coronavirus downturn better than those that, up until a month ago, were focused on dine-in business, per Yelp.

  • Restaurants using order-ahead and take-out apps will continue to get consumer spending.
  • In China, restaurants that leveraged order-ahead and delivery apps came back faster — and consumers were more likely to adopt these apps than before the coronavirus lockdown, according to Katherine Fogertey, restaurant research analyst at Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research.

What to watch: "Consumers are going to be on the hunt for value," said Fogertey in a recent Goldman Sachs webinar — which means that fast food joints and low-priced eateries will recover fastest.

  • For dine-in restaurants, the first phase will include sneeze guards around booths and the removal of tables to increase physical distance between diners.
  • Corporate dining and high-end restaurants will come back even more slowly.
  • Restaurants in malls, stadiums and tourist hubs are likely to be the last to come back.
  • Local chains, especially those that source their food from local farms, will be more trusted by consumers early on in the recovery.

What's next: All restaurants will be incentivized to increase cleanliness standards, per Yelp's data science editor Carl Bialik.

  • He also expects greater use of reservations and wait-lists so people can avoid the busiest times for dining and better control their interaction with restaurants.


Go deeper

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

8 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.