US cities where restaurants appear to be recovering fastest

FeaturedFood & Drink

Written by:

March saw the best sales month since the start of the pandemic and the high vaccination rates promise a sustained recovery in the following months.

Although many restaurants are still closed (some for good) and sales and employment in the industry have a long way to go to recover completely, March 2021 Google data shows a record demand from patrons wanting to eat out.

According to Google Adwords data, over 133 million Google searches were made in March 2021 for restaurants near me and related terms such as breakfast places near me, Chinese restaurants near me, Taco Bell near me, etc.

The volume of searches for restaurant-related keywords was 82% higher compared to March 2020, and also substantially higher than similar searches in the pre-pandemic months of February 2020 (93.9 million searches) and January 2020 (88.8 million searches).

Moreover, searches for recipes, which have skyrocketed during this pandemic and show a preference for home cooked meals, are cooling off, March registering the lowest number of recipe searches for the past six months.

But the record growth in restaurant-related searches was not evenly distributed geographically. Southern cities and top tourist destinations like Miami, Las Vegas, and Virginia Beach lead the charts, while places like New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. continue to see demand below pre-pandemic levels.

Chef’s Pencil has analyzed the search volumes for restaurant-related searches for the largest 50 cities in the US to identify those cities where demand was highest and lowest compared to the pre-pandemic period. To that extent, we compared restaurant-related searches from March 2021 to January 2020 (the last standard-length month before the pandemic started).

Image Credit: Drazen Zigic / iStock.

Top Cities Where Restaurant-related Searches Surpassed Pre-pandemic Levels

Nevada reopened restaurants, casinos, and bars at 50% capacity in mid-March and both restaurant owners and patrons could hardly wait. Restaurant-related searches on Google were up 148% Y-o-Y in Las Vegas, and up 79% and 81% compared to the pre-pandemic months of February 2020 and January 2020 respectively.

Mexican food/restaurant searches were the most popular in the category, followed by fast foodChinese restaurants, and steakhouse searches. Among the chains, McDonald’s, Denny’s, and Subway were the top searched for restaurants.

“The resurgence of the desire for people to go out is really overwhelming,” said Chef Thomas Keller in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Pent-up demand for both eating and the unbeatable Las Vegas experience is expected to help the city continue its fast path to recovery in the next few months.

Image Credit:

25. Philadelphia

Year-over-year search increase: 47%

Image Credit: bhofack2 / iStock.

24. Kansas City

Year-over-year search increase: 48%

Image Credit: mphillips007/istockphoto.

23. New Orleans

Year-over-year search increase: 48%

Image Credit: bhofack2/istockphoto.

22. Fort Worth

Year-over-year search increase: 49%

Image Credit: bhofack2 / iStock.

21. Colorado Springs

Year-over-year search increase: 50%

Image Credit: bhofack2/istockphoto.

20. Omaha, Nebraska

Year-over-year search increase: 51%

Image Credit:

19. Tampa, Florida

Year-over-year search increase: 52%

Image Credit: Alexcrab/istockphoto.

18. Indianapolis

Year-over-year search increase: 53%

Image Credit: DarcyMaulsby / iStock.

17. Oklahoma City

Year-over-year search increase: 54%

Image Credit: Houstonman6 / Wikimedia Commons.

16. Tucson, Arizona

Year-over-year search increase: 55%

Image Credit: bhofack2/istockphoto.

15. Jacksonville, Florida

Year-over-year search increase: 55%

Image Credit: mphillips007/istockphoto.

14. Houston

Year-over-year search increase: 55%

Image Credit: Venice Cooking School.

13. Tulsa

Year-over-year search increase: 56%

Image Credit: Fudio/istockphoto.

12. Milwaukee

Year-over-year search increase: 56%

Image Credit: CCat82/istockphoto.

11. Fresno, California

Year-over-year search increase: 58%

Image Credit: Teri Virbickis/shutterstock.

10. Baltimore

Year-over-year search increase: 60%

Image Credit: bhofack2/istockphoto.

9. Detroit

Year-over-year search increase: 60%

Image Credit: bhofack2 / iStock.

8. Miami

Year-over-year search increase: 62%

Image Credit: ColumbiaRestaurantGroup/

7. Arlington, Texas

Year-over-year search increase: 62%

Image Credit: Leah M./Yelp.

6. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Year-over-year search increase: 65%

Image Credit: carlosrojas20 / iStock.

5. Virginia Beach

Year-over-year search increase: 66%

Image Credit: abeandlouies/facebook.

4. El Paso

Year-over-year search increase: 67%

Image Credit: KirbyIng/istockphoto.

3. San Antonio

Year-over-year search increase: 71%

Image Credit: y6y6y6 / Wikimedia Commons.

2. Memphis

Year-over-year search increase: 79%

Image Credit: RendezvousMemphis/

1. Las Vegas

Year-over-year search increase: 81%


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

Image Credit: Nelson Q./