Millennials splurging on steaks and wine are fueling NYC's indoor dining scene

Millennials splurging on steaks and wine are fueling NYC's indoor dining scene
Indoor dining in New York City reopened on February 12.Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
  • Millennials are driving the indoor dining scene in New York City, reported Bloomberg's Kate Krader.
  • Deprived of the experience, they're splurging on dinners and sending checks and tips higher.
  • Dining is slowly rebounding, but service workers are still at risk.

Millennials are driving New York City's indoor dining scene.

Restaurant owners in the city told Bloomberg's Kate Krader that although many diners still prefer outdoor dining, young adults are more likely to eat inside - and they're splurging while doing so.

Nearly a year of restaurant deprivation and a decline in restaurant hopping amid restrictions is causing the cohort to shell out for high-priced items like steak, wine, and tasting menus, sending check averages and tips on the climb, restaurateurs told Krader. Tip averages increased from from 19% to 21% at Il Buco and Alimentari, she reported.
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It's all a sign of life for restaurants since February. Daily revenue across dine-in, takeout, and delivery declined in February, as did number of seated guests, per a UBS research note. Americans have continued to eat more at home amid cold weather, according to a recent Bank of America note. But both banks signaled the chances of a rebound.

March has already seen an improvement in dine-in demand, per UBS, while BofA predicts more people will flock to restaurants when restrictions get lifted and upon vaccine rollout and better weather. "There is a significant amount of pent-up demand to eat out again as consumers are tired and bored of cooking at home," states Bank of America.

Indoor dining in NYC resumed on February 12 (it's currently at 35% capacity), and millennials are fulfilling both banks' forecasts. But their spending may not be enough to save the restaurant industry, Krader reported, or those who work in it.
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A struggling service industry

Service workers have been hit hard during the pandemic. While food services saw some notable increases in employment in February 2021, bar and restaurant jobs are still down by around 2 million since the start of the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A McKinsey report also found that, post-pandemic, workers in "declining" sectors such as food service may have to make some substantial career changes to stay afloat. In fact, according to McKinsey, more than half of them will have to find higher-paying jobs - requiring different skills - on the other side of the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, service workers have also found themselves unable to work from home, but instead in environments sometimes requiring indoor interaction with unmasked customers. A study from UCLA and UC Berkeley researchers found that fast-food workers in LA County were "especially vulnerable" to COVID-19, Insider's Grace Dean reported.
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Demographically, those workers have disproportionately been women and people of color - a continued trend of some of the most vulnerable workers being the hardest hit. In December, Eater reported that indoor dining was the "fastest growing" source for the spreading of coronavirus, according to the state.

While New York City restaurant workers are now eligible for vaccines, The City reported that many were struggling to secure a coveted slot before restaurants reopened for indoor dining.

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