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For the first time, restaurants are seeing consistently higher reservation numbers than pre-pandemic times

Reservations are up 26% in Colorado, which is above the nation as a whole
Chef prepares food at Daughter Thai Kitchen in Denver
Posted at 9:40 PM, Sep 09, 2022

DENVER — It has been a rough few years for Colorado’s restaurant industry, between pandemic closures, labor shortages and supply chain issues. There is, however, some good news. Data from the online reservation platform OpenTable shows reservations are consistently higher than pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

Denver7 talked to staff at Daughter Thai Kitchen in Denver, which opened just months before the pandemic started. The have seen the rebound and are very grateful.

“It was just sad,” owner Ounjit Hardacre said of the early days of the pandemic. “Like in the first two days, just sad. Like, "What is happening? We Just opened the business! What can it be?"”

In the early days of the pandemic, there were worries COVID-19 would permanently shut Daughter Thai’s doors, but the customers were supportive, Hardacre said, and still showed up, even when take-out was the only option.

“We got a tip, like, $1,000 for one week, because people, like our customers, [felt] for us,” Hardacre said.

The ride to normalcy has been a bumpy one, but the trajectory has been up since in-person dining returned. The turnaround has been most stable this summer, according to data from OpenTable, with most days in summer 2022 seeing more reservations than in 2019. Axios Denver crunched the numbers and found that reservations are up 26% in Colorado, which is above the nation as a whole.

“Definitely bigger parties, not just couples dining in but much bigger parties, like 15 to 20 [people],” Daughter Thai general manager Ivan Carlos said. “We even just booked 40 people for dinner next weekend.”

Not all of the pandemic woes are over for restaurants. Daughter Thai is among many that are still struggling with increased supply costs and labor shortages, which is why Hardacre finds herself helping out in the kitchen most nights in-between her duties as owner. Even still, business is sizzling once again.

For a woman who grew up in the rice fields of Thailand, it’s the culmination of the American Dream.

“Oh I feel great,” Hardacre said. “I have to say thank you. I appreciate all of my customers and the support they show Daughter Thai… They encourage me to keep going and not give up.”