Retail

OpenTable CEO Warns Of Massive Restaurant Closures

As many as a quarter of all restaurants will shut their doors in the wake of the coronavirus downturn, Debby Soo, OpenTable’s new CEO, contends in a grim new prediction.

Soo, who took over the top job at the online restaurant reservation company this month, told Bloomberg that she does not foresee any return to normal until a successful vaccine is rolled out for COVID-19.

And Soo is doubling down on the findings of a survey of the restaurant sector undertaken in May by her predecessor, Steve Hafner, which predicted that 25 percent of restaurants across the country will likely close as a result of the crisis.

OpenTable made the prediction based on the pace of reservations made through its online reservation service, which works with 60,000 restaurants across the country.

Soo, OpenTable’s new CEO, noted that many restaurants have scrambled to find new areas of growth to try and soften the blow that came from the loss of in-door dining, boosting delivery and takeout service and in some cases offering groceries as well.

“Restaurants are doing everything they can to be scrappy and make it work and find pockets of growth,” Soo told the news service.

But while some restaurants have seen their finances stabilize with the coming of warmer weather and outdoor seating, the industry remains in a very precarious place, said Soo, who worked her way up the corporate ladder at Booking Holdings, OpenTable’s corporate parent, after starting her career as an intern.

The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans to restaurants and other small businesses, was far from a cure-all, with the fund having recently closed amid stalled Congressional talks on a new coronavirus aid package.

“Dining will come back. We’ve seen even with cities opening back up, the demand for dining is there,” Soo told Bloomberg. But “it won’t go back to normal, meaning pre-COVID levels, until we have a vaccine.”

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