Restaurants across Canada were experiencing a post-pandemic renaissance before Omicron. OpenTable seated diner data revealed that the number of diners at Canadian restaurants were approaching pre-pandemic levels, and on occasions, exceeding pre-pandemic levels in late summer and fall 2021. An especially bright point was Labour Day weekend, which saw the number of seated diners at Canadian restaurants spike at almost 20% higher than the same period in 2019. This shows just how enthusiastic Canadians are about dining out and how much they have missed it.
A survey of OpenTable restaurants in November 2021 indicated 70% of restaurant owners and managers were approaching 2022 with optimism, reporting increased demand for reservations and increases in diner spending. While Omicron may have temporarily dampened this optimism, the restaurant community is extremely resilient and it’s this unwavering determination that will drive continued success in 2022 and beyond.
The restaurant industry has had to be agile the past two years. While this has been difficult and, in some cases, devastating, it has also driven innovation and experimentation, for instance, introducing new concepts like sidewalk and laneway patios to maximise their spaces. It has also opened up new opportunities for restaurants to connect with, and serve, their guests. This is particularly evident in the rapid uptake and adoption of take-out and delivery offerings, retail-products, merchandise and of course – the digital space.
At OpenTable, we will continue to do our part to support the industry we love as winter thaws. Some of the recent initiatives designed to support restaurants include the Show up for Restaurants campaign that focused on educating diners on the impact of no shows. Additional efforts include facilitating restaurant take-out and delivery options and promoting safety tools to help diners navigate changing restrictions along with in-app direct messaging to help restaurants connect with their diners. We remain hyper focused on delivering features which enable our restaurants to deliver even more exceptional hospitality.
Dining Trends Revealed
Our research shows that Canadians are keen on supporting the restaurant industry:
- More than a quarter (27%) of all Canadians intend to eat out more frequently than before the pandemic, with 56% of those diners stating they are doing so to support local restaurants.
- 62% of Canadians intend to eat healthier this year and almost a quarter (21%) started the year off with a dry January.
- Over a third (37%) of Canadians look for non-alcoholic drink options when choosing a restaurant.
- Almost half (48%) of all Canadians state that the variety of menu options most influence their choice of restaurant.
The industry is going to have to contend with the numerous challenges exposed by the pandemic: the labour shortage, rising inflation and rapidly evolving consumer behaviour. These are challenges faced by restaurants across the world, though are acute in Canada due to the significant length of restrictions and lockdowns that restaurants experienced across the country.
Technology will continue to be key in addressing these core issues. From the OpenTable perspective, we can be part of the solution by increasing operational efficiencies and helping restaurants tap into, and benefit from, new revenue streams. Restaurants planning for a prosperous 2022 should be evaluating their current digital solutions and strategy; this is a great time to revisit website design and tech providers as online ordering, delivery and booking trends continue to accelerate.