Now that San Francisco is open, will restaurants finally recover?



After a hectic 2020, restaurateurs in the Bay Area can breathe easier now that California has abandoned its COVID-19 restrictions and has fully reopened. With over one million doses of vaccine Administered in San Francisco County alone, it looks like a return to normalcy is closer than ever. But with big financial losses and the injury of permanent restaurant closures still fresh, where does San Francisco’s food industry stand in its recovery schedule?

It may be too early to be sure, but Emily Abraham, acting director of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, says the outlook for San Francisco is optimistic as the number of temporary and permanent closures in restaurants continues to decline.

“We are seeing a lot of indicators pointing to a recovery,” Abraham said. “At the start of the pandemic, when many quarantine measures were put in place, about 50% of small businesses were shut down in some format. Many even took out payday loans in California to survive. We’ve seen that number fluctuate since COVID started, but we’re seeing that trend starting to wane. Our figures are displayed at the beginning of May [that] about 48% [of small businesses are] either temporarily closed or open only on certain days of the week. We are moving in the right direction. ”

Abraham said the city has collected this data from several sources, including credit card companies and OpenTable Reservations, which help determine a restaurant’s current status. OpenTable told SFGATE that restaurants in San Francisco in the price range of $ 30 and under had a 33% growth in bookings while restaurants in the $ 31- $ 49 range rose 26% between April and May 2021.

“There is still a long way to go to recovery, especially in large cities that have been slower to ease restrictions like San Francisco,” Susan Lee, OpenTable’s director of growth, told SFGATE by e- mail. “But the city has such a rich culinary landscape with local favorites, like Foreign Cinema and State Bird Provisions, that we know diners can’t wait to see again. As the city reopens… we will no doubt see how this translates into increased demand for catering. ”

According to Yelp data, the number of diners seated through the Yelp app increased 48% in May 2021 compared to May 2019.


Before California reopened on June 15, restaurant reservations in San Francisco were also on the rise on Yelp. The business review company traced the data for SFGATE and found that diners seated through the Yelp app were up 1.5% in metro areas San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward in May compared to the same. period in May 2019. On the national level, seated guests via Yelp also increased by 48% in May compared to May 2019.

But restaurant reservations are only one thing. San Francisco recently welcomed Itria, Vida Cantina, and Shokudou among other new restaurants that have added to the city’s diverse culinary landscape. Yelp also told SFGATE that the year-over-year variation in new restaurant openings in the San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward metropolitan areas between May 2020 and May 2021 increased 17.9%, but was in 20.7% decrease compared to May 2019.

Still, a slew of new restaurant openings in San Francisco are signaling the light at the end of the tunnel, Abraham says.

“Some of our economists with whom we work in the chamber [show] that we might have a boom ahead so things are looking good, but I think it’s an opportunity for us to really focus on some of the structural issues that we have as a city; clean and safe streets and ensuring that consumer confidence is built, ”Abraham said. “We want to make sure that tourists feel [we’re] open for business and that we are a safe place to come and spend your money. We still have a long way to go to recoup this loss from tourism. ”

Tourism accounts for a third of SF’s overall economy, and although it is still down from its pre-pandemic days, Abraham says it has started to pick up as more visitors have started. to return to the city with relaxed COVID restrictions this year.

Last December, Abraham told SFGATE that about 85% of restaurants and bars were temporarily or permanently closed in the SoMa and Financial District neighborhoods, but a solid number of city-wide closures in 2020 are difficult to pin down. One of the best ways to determine permanent closures in 2020 would be for the city to sort through nearly 3,900 health permits it issued to cafes and restaurants last year and check if they are still active, Laurie Thomas, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, says Forbes.

While the recovery of the food industry in San Francisco is much better than it has been in recent months, Abraham is careful to declare it a triumph for now. She highlights the economic impact of the pandemic on small businesses and says we cannot forget the problems they faced in 2020.

“Even as we’re headed in the right direction, we want to make sure we’re still focusing on small businesses,” Abraham said. “They will need our support for a while.


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