Restaurant employment is down 8 percent statewide, 16 percent in Twin Cities

Despite what Mayor Jacob Frey might say, restaurants in Minneapolis do not appear to be coping well with his new vaccine and testing regime.

Data on restaurant bookings in the city from OpenTable show that, in the seven days up to and including Jan. 21, restaurant bookings in 45 American cities were down 29.0 percent on their 2019, pre-pandemic average. In Minneapolis, however, they were down by 50.4 percent. That was the first night of the city’s new vaccine and testing regime. Since then, the numbers have gotten worse, as Figure 1 shows. In the seven days up to and including Feb. 1, the average of the 45 American cities had improved to ‘only’ 19.9 percent lower than in 2019. In Minneapolis, however, things were worse: bookings were now down 61.3 percent on the 2019 baseline.

Figure 1: Seated diners from online, phone, and walk-in reservations, change from 2019, seven day moving average

Source: OpenTable

Like pretty much any data source, this is not infallible. But other data show that restaurants in the Twin Cities are faring worse than across Minnesota generally.

Figure 2 shows the change in employment in Restaurants and Other Eating Places using January 2020 as the base. We see that, initially, changes in employment statewide and in the Twin Cities closely tracked each other. A gap opens up with the recovery from the initial shutdowns in March 2020, with employment statewide recovering faster. And since January 2021, the gap has grown even wider. By December 2021 — the most recent data we have, so this does not capture the impact of the Twin City’s new vaccine and testing regimes — total employment in restaurants and other eating places statewide was 91.8 percent of its January 2020 level; in the Twin Cities, that number was just 84.1 percent.

Figure 2: Change in employment, Restaurants and Other Eating Places, Jan. 2020 = 100

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The pandemic and government responses to it have been rough on restaurants all over the United States, but it has been especially hard on those in the Twin Cities. Whether looking at data on bookings, tax collections, or employment — which is down eight percent statewide, but 16 percent in the Twin Cities — it is the same grim story.