A short story about Chris and Terry, modern restaurant lovers

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One way OpenTable stays on top of the industry is with relentless research. We survey restaurants, OpenTable users, and general diners to help restaurants succeed with valuable information and insights in addition to the wealth of data we put at your fingertips. But numbers don’t always paint the most vivid picture, so we drew on the data to create this reservation story about a typical OpenTable diner. It’s based on recent data related to their demographics and dining behaviors. Chris and Terry are fictional, but they represent a typical guest in 2023.

It’s Monday afternoon. Chris, 33, texts Terry, 35, to gauge interest in going out to dinner. Chris works from home and knows a great meal and a change of scenery will help them both relax. The text is unlikely to surprise Terry, who reports to the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Early-week date nights have become a thing for the pair.

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Chris isn’t alone. This Monday-night-out impulse has become common. In fact, Monday saw the biggest jump in reservation numbers of any day of the week. Covers are up 27% compared to last year according to OpenTable data. Tuesday, another traditionally sleepy night, saw the second biggest increase.

Before Terry even responded “yes,” Chris opens the OpenTable app searching for Italian restaurants near the office park where Terry works, one suburban town over.

Chris’s craving for ravioli started this afternoon while scrolling Instagram. One of their favorite local restaurants, Semolina, had a special on mushroom ravioli with shaved truffles. It was a little spendy for Monday night, but they hadn’t gone out over the weekend.

Semolina had a table right at 5 pm. There was a time when they’d never considered an early bird reservation, but now it was the perfect way to reclaim the day after work. Chris and Terry aren’t alone in preferring reservations on the early side. Dining between 4 and 5 pm rose by 27% in 2022 compared to the 2021, according to OpenTable data.

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While Chris was waiting to hear back from Terry, an email from Thistle Blue, another favorite restaurant, showed up about the restaurant’s partnership with a local hunger organization. This week only, they’d donate a meal to someone experiencing food insecurity for every entree ordered at the restaurant.

Like 42% of people, Chris thinks it’s important for restaurants to be more than a place to eat, and that it’s important that restaurants give back to their communities, too. Certainly, food insecurity was more important than ravioli cravings.

Plus, Blue Thistle’s menu has plenty of plant-based, healthier options–a high priority for Chris, who’d rather pay an extra few dollars for a lean, grass-fed burger on a whole-grain role than have a less wholesome version. Like 63% of OpenTable brand lovers, Chris believes the extra cost of better-for-you food is worth every penny.

Terry replied with an enthusiastic yes to the suggestion to dine out, so Chris booked a 5:30 table. Thistle Blue was a slightly further drive, and Alf, their beagle, needed a walk before they went out.

After being seated, the server mentioned several natural wines by the glass that were available at the happy hour price. They each ordered a glass, typical of OpenTable brand lovers. 63% have enjoyed wine during the past three months.

Though Chris planned to order the grass-fed burger, their eyes were drawn to a new vegetarian section of the menu. Like 52% of their fellow OpenTable fans, Chris has a favorable view of plant-based meals and went with cauliflower shawarma and house-baked pita.

As someone who is gluten-sensitive, Terry asked if the burger could be served on a green salad instead of the usual bun. Like 93% of diners, Terry believes restaurants should accommodate dish modifications at least some of the time.

True restaurant enthusiasts, Chris and Terry started talking about their next meal out even before the plates were clear. Chris mentioned that ravioli special at Semolina. They looked at the Instagram post and spied a short rib risotto in their feed that got them both on board with the plan. They made a reservation for the next night.

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In spite of inflation, fears of recession, and rising menu prices, Chris is among the 32% of people who are actually dining out more than they did in the past. It’s expensive, but they can afford it. Like 64% of OpenTable users, their annual income exceeds $100K.

Since graduating from college, Chris and Terry have indulged their passion for dining out at least once a week, just like 64% of other OpenTable diners. It’s not unusual for them to dine out on back-to-back nights these days. They’re still making up for all the restaurant meals they didn’t get to have in 2020.

Tomorrow, after all, is Tuesday. That’s another increasingly popular day to dine out.

Want to dig into more dining data? Check out our State of the Industry hub.