The great takeout boom of 2020 and early 2021 looks to be headed for a bust as more SF restaurants restart indoor dining and prepare to eventually get back to something like normal.
Not only are chefs and restaurant owners quickly realizing that they can't keep doing a bustling takeout business and also keep up with the demands of onsite dining, but San Franciscans seem to be getting out more and losing interest in ordering in.
Chef-owner Laurence Jossel of Nopa tells the Chronicle that since the restaurant started doing outdoor dining in February, he's watched takeout go from being about 80% of the restaurant's nightly business, to 50%, down to 20% on one recent evening. And according to OpenTable data, only about 15% of SF restaurants were taking reservations in January when they were first allowed to restart outdoor dining, and that's now jumped to 50% with indoor dining allowed a half-capacity.
"As we start to expand indoors, there’s no way we can keep up [with takeout]," Jossel tells the Chronicle.
That sentiment is likely being shared by many popular restaurants that had started doing elaborate, multi-course meals during the pandemic.
For now, Liholiho Yacht Club is still doing its extensive takeout menu, after making a temporary move to the Dear Inga space in the Mission where there's more possibilities for outdoor seating than their Tenderloin digs. But when the restaurant decides to open indoors, things could change for their pickup and delivery options.
Michelin two-starred Acquerello offered takeout for the first time in its existence during the past year, but the last night of the takeout operation was April 17. The restaurant website says that the dining room will reopen on May 11, and Chef Suzette Gresham tells the Chronicle that she's still trying to decide if there will be some limited takeout availability down the line.
Noting the takeout demand that she's still seeing for Acquerello's divine lasagna, she says that the restaurant probably attracted a new, younger demographic through takeout and delivery. "If we never had the pandemic, we never would have tried it," she says.
Masking rules continue to make outdoor and indoor dining a bit nerve wracking — especially in fine dining settings where servers are frequently coming to the table with new courses, and asking you to re-mask every time. But this is likely something we'll have to get used to for a while, as California's mask mandate likely isn't being lifted for months.
The good news is that two-thirds of San Franciscans have now had at least one vaccine shot.
Top image: Nopa's Cobb salad via Instagram