May 07, 2021 at 06:10PM

After a strong start to the year, restaurants are finally looking toward a bright future. Vaccinations are bringing consumers back into restaurants for on-premises dining even as many maintain their digital ordering behaviors. This weekend coming weekend is going to be something of a shot in the arm for the industry, with Mother’s Day reservations far surpassing not only 2020 levels but also pre-pandemic levels, reports Restaurant Business. According to reservation platform OpenTable, Mother’s Day reservations are up 9X from 2020 levels and up 64 percent from 2019.

As OpenTable CEO Debby Soo in a statement, “Based on our data, Mother’s Day 2021 is shaping up to be the first holiday where many families will celebrate and dine out together — an experience diners are eagerly anticipating after more than a year of restrictions.”

“This year, demand has been fanatic,” Mitch Miller, vice president of steakhouse chain Ocean Prime told Nation’s Restaurant News. “It feels as close to a normal Mother’s Day as it could possibly be.”

This rush of reservation comes amid an across-the-board increase in expected Mother’s Day spending. This year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) Mother’s Day Data Center, shoppers are expected to spend an all-time high $220.48 per person, up 8 percent from the previous record, and with total spending expected to amount to $28.1 billion, a 5 percent increase.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund Receives 186K Applications In First Two Days

Within the first 48 hours of the portal opening, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), the $28.6 billion program to aid food service establishments under the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, 186,200 establishments submitted applications, according to a White House press release on Wednesday (May 6).

Some 61,700 of these applications, representing one third of all applications, were from establishments whose pre-pandemic revenue was under $500,000 per year. For reference, according to Toast data, the average monthly revenue for a restaurant less than one year old is $111,860.70, meaning that these restaurants are, as the White House report says, “some of the smallest restaurants and bars in America.”

While reporting the mass influx of applications, the release also highlights data that indicate that the “overall outlook for the industry has improved in recent months.” It points to findings that 450,000 restaurant industry jobs have been added since the start of the year.

Additionally, the release says, “The share of restaurant and bar owners planning to hire in the next six months has nearly doubled, from just 30 percent in January to more than 57 percent in mid-April. The share of restaurant and bar owners that have returned to normal operations has more than doubled since January and the share expecting to return to normal operations in the next six months has increased from just 17 percent to more than 26 percent.”

Astronomical Chowbus Growth Suggests Demand for Specialized Delivery Services

Chowbus, the restaurant aggregator and delivery service specializing in Asian food, grew by a whopping 700 percent in 2020, reports Forbes. This sky-high growth suggests that, as the aggregator space crowds with many businesses vying for consumers’ restaurant delivery spending, those that have a truly unique value proposition have an advantage.

“When people think about food delivery, they have so many choices that many just end up with [whatever] platform gives them discounts,” Chowbus CEO and Co-Founder Linxin Wen told PYMNTS in an interview last September. “We are trying to hit the customer who specifically wants authentic Asian food and a better way to discover and access it.”

In addition to differentiating itself by specializing in Asian cuisine, the platform also acts as an amplifier for smaller Asian restaurants that may not otherwise be able to access a wider audience.

“The other big players always feature big chains, so small restaurants got a very few orders from other platforms,” Wen told PYMNTS. “They don’t benefit from the name recognition of a big chain, and that is just the reality. The best way for them to introduce themselves to customers is with their food itself. … That’s why we want to build this kind of a food-delivery platform — to serve those underserved restaurants.”

Krispy Kreme Bears Down On Feel-Good Promotions In Advance Of Possible IPO

Days after Krispy Kreme filed for an initial public offering (IPO), the company announced Thursday (May 6) that graduating high school and college seniors can receive a dozen free donuts. To obtain their donuts, graduates who come to Krispy Kreme between May 10 and May 16 must show a cap and gown with a 2021 tassel, a piece of “class of 2021” swag, or a graduation announcement featuring the name on the student’s ID.

The promotion drives the joy-centric messaging that has brought customers into Krispy Kreme locations throughout the pandemic. As  Chief Marketing Officer David Skena told PR Week in an interview, the company decided early into the crisis that it would “go on the offense” and “identify the role we could play during this tough time.” Specifically, he said, “We can share joy … When you are being generous and kind, the media tends to share that story.”

Restaurant Roundup: On Mother’s Day, Restaurants Benefit From Pent-Up Demand …

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