According to research conducted by Yelp, 2023 appears to be the year of the early bird.
In its 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry report, Yelp found that 10% of all diners were seated between 2-5 p.m.
The 4 p.m. slot more than doubled from 2% in 2019 to 5% in 2023, according to the study, with 6 p.m. being the most popular reservation time, making up 20% of daily reservations.
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The Wall Street Journal and The Today Show spoke with business owners and patrons who back these stats. Noting that New York City’s theater industry is falling in line with the early-to-bed-trend, more and more shows are starting at 7 p.m. (as opposed to 8).
“Traditionally people would say that’s a bad idea. Don’t do a show that early, because people won’t have time to get into the city from the suburbs,” Alexander Donnelly, who runs the theater division of production company PRG, told WSJ. “Now, we’re seeing this desire to get home earlier and get out of the city as quickly as possible.”
Courtney Lorenttz, general manager of the New York City restaurant Ilili, told Today: “We’ve seen a huge decrease in guests that are dining later. That 10 p.m. guest is not coming anymore.”
A diner at the restaurant identified as Judy said that eating on an earlier schedule has improved her health. “I sleep better and actually have lost weight,” she said.
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People might be eating earlier, but that doesn’t mean they are eating less. The Yelp study reports positive trends for the food and beverage industry, citing new business openings up 10% from April 2022 to March 2023 compared to the previous year. Yelp says that pop-up restaurants account for a big part of that increase, up a whopping 105%. What began as a cost-savings tactic during the pandemic, pop-ups have continued to share a space and equipment with breweries, bars, and sometimes other restaurants, according to the New York Times.
Researchers have found that eating earlier dinners has numerous health benefits, like limiting weight gain and spikes in high blood sugar levels. The only trick? Sitting down to a healthy dinner at 5 and then not eating a party-sized bag of chips when you are plopped on the couch and starving at 10.