New restaurant openings in Austin higher than national average

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Go anywhere in Austin and you’ll probably notice a new restaurant. That’s because the city is booming with new places to eat.

According to a report by Yelp, restaurant openings in Austin are higher than the national average.

It said 2023 restaurant openings increased by 20% compared to 2022, which exceeded the national average of 10%.

‘Great environment for restaurants’

“The Yelp data confirms what we are seeing out in the streets,” said Texas Restaurant Association Chief Public Affairs Officer Kelsey Erickson Streufert.

The number of Austin-area restaurants, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • 2019: 4,407 restaurants
  • 2020: 4,483 restaurants
  • 2021: 4,609 restaurants
  • 2022: 4,755 restaurants

Streufert said there are several different ingredients that come together to make Austin a great place to start a restaurant.

“I think people in Austin love camaraderie. They love culture. They love being out together experiencing new things,” Streufert said. “Hospitality, entertainment, tourism, the live music scene, all of these things really collide to make a great environment for restaurants.”

Streufert said restaurants continue to have a major impact on the economy and labor force.

“Folks don’t realize that restaurants are actually our second largest private sector employer across the state,” Streufert said.

Restaurant struggles

However, keeping business alive isn’t easy.

“We do see a lot of restaurant closures and it’s the worst part of this business.”

Kelsey Erickson Streufert, Texas Restaurant Association

Streufert said they did a survey and found that 30% of Texas restaurant operators did not make a profit in 2023.

“Food costs are up 25% compared to pre-pandemic. Wages are up 30%,” Streufert said. “Swipe fees, every time you use a credit card to pay, those have gone up astronomically.”

When it comes to thriving in this industry, Streufert said restaurants must focus on the guest and employee experience.

“If your employees are having a good experience, that makes it a lot more likely that your guests are having a great experience.” Streufert said. “Lean into that experience, and you look for ways to cut back on costs, that don’t hurt that experience.”

For customers, Streufert suggested to write down the top five or ten restaurants they wouldn’t want to close and make an effort to go there.

“Being intentional as a consumer, trying new restaurants, and then making sure that you’re going back to those favorites that we don’t want to see leave Austin,” Streufert said.

‘The community has been great to us’

It’s been a year since Masa y Más opened its doors on South Lamar Boulevard.

“We’re newbies,” said Masa y Más General Manager Sandy Macias. “We’re one year old.”

So far, Macias said they’ve been busy with customers. They already have some who are regulars.

“The community has been great to us. I love socializing with our community, and getting to know all of our regulars,” Macias said. “I see them and I know them by name already.”

But Macias said this year hasn’t come without its challenges.

“We’ve seen the cost of food go up, to be honest, mostly produce,” Macias said. “I feel just from the expansion of restaurants, you know, you have so much competition out there.”

Still, Macias said her restaurant is thriving so much that they’re already looking to expand their menu and locations.

“Business has been booming. We’re going to be launching breakfast,” Macias said. “We’ve been getting a lot of people requesting different locations. We feel like maybe the next hub for us might be the Buda or Kyle area.”

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