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Restaurant bookings in France soar ahead of May 19 reopening

Popular reservation website The Fork has reported thousands of bookings a day – up from hundreds a week ago – as customers rush to book tables ahead of the extended 21:00 curfew

6 May 2021
A couple sit outside on a restaurant terrace. Restaurant bookings in France soar ahead of May 19 reopening

People in France are rushing to book outdoor restaurant tables as terraces reopen on May 19 Pic: Anna Urlapova / Pexels / Pexels License

By Hannah Thompson

Online bookings for restaurants in France are soaring already ahead of terraces reopening on May 19, with reservations on popular website The Fork up tenfold and site visitors up 80% in the past week.

The May 19 date marks the next stage in ending lockdown, and has been eagerly anticipated since President Macron announced it on April 29.

Read more: Covid-19: President Macron gives four dates for easing of restrictions
Read more: Covid France: What are the key May-June dates for easing of lockdown?

Already reservations website The Fork has seen bookings increase tenfold in the past week, as restaurant-goers look to secure a coveted terrace table.

Since April 29, traffic to the website has increased by 80%, and bookings are continuing to rise. On Tuesday this week (May 4), the number of reservations was up 50% compared to April 30.

Before confirmation of the reopening date, the platform had already seen a rise in bookings, which were – at that point – hypothetical, as President Macron had not yet confirmed the reopening timetable.

Then, bookings on the site were in the hundreds per day; now they are in the thousands per day (compared to the tens of thousands during pre-Covid times).

Earlier reservations due to curfew

As the curfew will be maintained, but extended to 21:00 from the same date, most diners are opting for reservations around 19:00, rather than the 20:00 or 20:30 times that were most popular pre-pandemic.

Of the 20,000 restaurants listed on the website, 61% are planning to open an outdoor space from May 19. 

The rest appear to be waiting for the next date on the reopening timetable, June 9, when restaurants will – if all goes well – be able to reopen their indoor spaces to a maximum of six people per table, and the curfew will be pushed back to 23:00.

This is either because these restaurants do not have any outdoor space, or because they fear that opening their terrace only will not be profitable, and are waiting for the date when they can open the entire restaurant.

The Fork is a popular restaurant reservations website (Image: TheFork.fr / Screenshot)

 

‘Customers want to get back to normal life’

Damien Rodière, director general of The Fork France, told BFMTV: “There is a real expectation. People are preparing to go to restaurants on May 19 but also for the Pentecost weekend (May 22-23).

“It is getting better daily. Every day we have restaurateurs on the phone telling us that things are filling up.”

Mr Rodière said that reservations now were much higher than those seen in June 2020, when restaurateurs were permitted to reopen after the first lockdown of March 2020.

In the past 14 days, the website has already received more bookings than it did the day before reopening in June last year.

Mr Rodière said: “Anticipation is much higher this year than last year. During the first lockdown, people were enjoying cooking at home. The context is different this year; we know more about the virus, and we have the vaccines.

“Restaurants have been closed for six months. Customers want to get back to normal life, and socialise. You go to a restaurant for more than just the food.”

The Fork, previously known as La Fourchette, is a TripAdvisor company, and one of the most popular online restaurant reservation websites in France.

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