US Sees Huge Surge in New Restaurants, Food Trucks as the Country Reopens

Food van worker giving sandwiches to costumer.
Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

Last year was rough for restaurants and bars, but 2021 is seeing a large influx of new restaurants and dining options as the U.S. begins to reopen.

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When 2020 started, the restaurant industry was expected to continue growing. When the coronavirus pandemic hit full-force in mid-March, the industry was rocked. Millions were left unemployed or furloughed, and over 110,000 restaurants — that’s one in six — remain fully closed amid the pandemic’s economic turmoil, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Although many restaurants remained open in some capacity, such as outdoor dining, takeout or delivery, many shut their doors for part of the year and took financial losses as restaurant owners struggled to find safe ways to reopen.

However, in the last quarter of 2020, Yelp added over 18,000 new restaurants to its platform, indicating that restaurants were recovering quickly, according to CBS News. In fact, within the first two months of 2021, over 50,000 new food and dining businesses registered in the U.S.

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CBS News found that these new restaurant owners are a mix of former industry professionals who shut their doors, laid off restaurant employees and entrepreneurs looking to expand their business portfolios.

Although storefronts are easier to obtain as a result of the high number of closed restaurants, it’s food trucks and delivery services that are leading the restaurant surge. Yelp reported a 40% increase in food truck openings in the last quarter of 2020, with delivery restaurants following closely behind, according to CBS News.

Justin Norman, the vice president of data science at Yelp, told CNBC, “The increase in food delivery services would have easily been predicted, although we may not have predicted they would stay on the rise a year later.”

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A year after the pandemic began, restaurants are continuing to find innovative ways to operate and stay relevant while adhering to social distancing recommendations.

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“We’ve seen more and more businesses embrace app-enabled delivery, software tools like reservations and waitlist and consumer-oriented communications tools like the Covid health and safety measures,” Norman told CNBC. “The digital local business is here to stay.”

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About the Author

Courtney Johnston is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer with an emphasis on finance and small business. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, Investopedia, Fundera, JoyWallet, The Chicago Tribune, and Benzinga. She's passionate about personal finance and loves talking about money at
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