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High-End Restaurants Saw New Openings Decline Last Year: Report

High-End Restaurants Saw New Openings Decline Last Year: Report

The fine-dining bubble may be getting ready to burst.

High-end restaurant openings were down in the year from May 2023 to April 2024, according to a new Yelp report released on Wednesday. Categories and cuisines usually associated with fine dining saw a decline in new openings: New American restaurants dropped the most (46 percent), while teppanyaki (40 percent) and Modern European (36 percent) weren’t too far behind. Yelp says the slump is because diners are still grappling with rising prices even as inflation cools.

The drop-off is at odds with openings throughout the larger culinary industry, which saw an overall increase of 6 percent from the prior year. That jump was led by pop-ups, which saw a 155 percent bump in openings, and dessert shops, which were up 52 percent. Other sweets like shaved ice, waffles, ice cream, and donuts also saw more openings in that timeframe.

Yelp’s report isn’t solely focused on fine-dining restaurants, but it does illuminate trends taking place at the high end of the culinary world. Along with a slower stream of openings, more and more fancier spots are implementing technology usually associated with casual restaurants and cafes. Notably, mentions of “self service” on Yelp were up 159 percent for restaurants rated with three dollar signs. A more modest increase of 29 percent was seen in restaurants with four dollar signs on the platform.

Here, self-service is associated with features like kiosks, iPad checkouts, self-checkouts, and counter service. Across all restaurants, mentions of those amenities more than doubled last year: “Kiosk” was up an eye-popping 324 percent, while “iPad checkout” rose 291 percent. These aren’t the sorts of things you would expect to see at a fine-dining restaurant, but as costs rise across the board, it seems like higher-end eateries may be implementing some drastic measures to cut down on their expenses.

One bright spot for the fine-dining industry might be that diners are seemingly less concerned with tipping than they are at lower-cost restaurants. Mentions of “gratuity” are growing more slowly when it comes to the three- and four-dollar-sign restaurants on Yelp: 58 percent and 26 percent, respectively, for those restaurants—compared with 140 percent and 103 percent for one- and two-dollar-sign spots. The company thinks that may be because gourmands expect to tip as part of the fine-dining experience, although many of these restaurants might also include gratuity in the final menu price.

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It’s been an up-and-down year for the restaurant industry, if Yelp’s data are anything to go by. And just like all spots, fine-dining concepts are trying to find their footing in our uncertain world.



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