In Denver, Colorado’s central business district, there’s signs of a recovering economy as several eateries are advertising to hire employees.
At restaurant West of Surrender, owner Gary Mantelli says after being hit hard during the COVID-19 crisis, his family business is finally starting to recover.
“People are coming back out and I think that they’re getting excited about being back in the space,” he said.
Economic experts say what’s happening here is happening across the country.
“The light at the end of the end of the tunnel for the restaurant industry is definitely getting brighter,” said Hudson Riehle with the National Restaurant Association.
He says the reasons for restaurants rebounding range from vaccinations picking up to lockdowns being lifted.
“Restaurant consumers are definitely stepping up their patronage and spending patterns,” Riehle said.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports restaurants sales in March were up 13.4% from February. More than a year into the pandemic, however, restaurants across the country are still down 1.8 million jobs compared to pre-coronavirus levels, which could make the road to recovery longer than expected
“It’s important to view 2021 as really a year of transition for the restaurant industry,” Riehle said.
At West of Surrender, staff is seeing growing customer confidence.
“I think we’re turning the corner right now; things have been picking up,” said bartender Westin Elliot. “We’re going to have a booming summer.”
As weather gets warmer and restrictions loosen, Mantelli is looking to open up more seating and hire more employees.
“It makes you feel good about your chances, like we’re going to make it,” he said.