New Yelp Report Shows An Uptick In High-End And Experience-Dining

American diners are definitely feeling the effects of inflation when eating out, according to a new report from Yelp. However, they're not letting price increases stop them from experiencing the best of the best when it comes to dining: Per the company's findings, consumers are increasingly seeking out premium meals, whether it be at high-end restaurants or by participating in so-called "dining experiences."

It's well-known that takeout and food delivery fared well at the start of the pandemic — but two years later, on-premise dining is once again surging. Searches for reservations on Yelp were 107% higher in the first quarter of 2022 than they were in the first quarter of 2021, noted the company's report.

The return to on-premise dining has seen an increased interest among consumers for high-end and experiential dining, as Lightspeed explains. And, restaurateurs have embraced the trend as a way to stand out against the crowded dining landscape. These types of dining experiences are defined by their "multisensory" approach, which may feature unexpected locations or participatory elements beyond simply eating.

What types of dining experiences are Americans seeking?

Yelp's findings suggest that consumers — while acutely aware of inflation's effects on restaurant prices — aren't shying away from pricier dining options. According to the company's report, this trend suggests that diners are aiming to spend money on "high quality experiences," rather than frequent, casual meals.

Specifically, several of Yelp's restaurant categories have surged compared to last year's data — many of which reflect the shift towards experience-driven dining. Per the report, the first quarter of 2022 saw a 500% increase in conveyor sushi restaurant openings compared to the same period in 2021. Dinner theaters saw the second-highest year-to-year increase, with openings climbing 240% since 2021.

Other categories to see an increase in openings over the past year included internet cafes, supper clubs, themed cafes, buffets, bubble tea, brew pups, gastropubs, and breweries — all of which offer diners a specialized environment, product, or experience.