LA sees boom in on-site dining and a bust in pop-up restaurants

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A restaurant in downtown Culver City features a bottle of hand sanitizer on each of its outdoor dining tables. Photo by Amy Ta.

On June 15, California and LA County will be completely reopened, meaning no more capacity limits and social distancing guidelines. It’s great news for restaurants that are eager to welcome back diners on-site.

But during the pandemic, many in the food service industry adapted and found success through ghost kitchens, using reservation apps like Tock, and through pop-ups that don’t have the overhead of a brick and mortar restaurant. 

Eater LA’s Mona Holmes tells KCRW that the June 15 reopening will have an impact on the service industry as a whole

“Restaurants are going to revert back to zero restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining capacity limits, [and no] physical distancing at restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars. It's pretty much going to just go back to what life was like before March 2020. Although just remember, some businesses will likely still be applying the facemask rule,” she says.

That may change the dynamic for the ghost kitchens and pop-up restaurants that benefited from diners being cooped up at home. With more Angelenos vaccinated in LA County, on-site dining is booming once again, says Mona Holmes. That has caused a decline in the customer base for some LA pop-ups, including Anjahles from chef Jazzy Harvey in Crenshaw and Nanas in Redondo Beach. 

Holmes says, “Chef Jazzy Harvey … developed this really great menu that reflects her background [with] seafood boils, really great jerk chicken sliders, but instead of chicken, it's jackfruit. It was a wild success. And from the day she opened, people loved her food, and she sold out regularly. But now her business is down by 20 to 30%.” 

Some pop-ups are looking at brick and mortar options, while others are surviving on the customer base who still aren’t ready to venture out yet. The pandemic afforded many chefs opportunities to experiment outside of the established restaurant business model. 

Holmes says, “Now that June 15 is approaching, people will be running in the streets. I believe that both [brick and mortar restaurants and pop-ups] can operate side by side and create an amazing ecosystem of places to eat.”

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