By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The push to get back open during the latter part of 2020 helped South Florida restaurant owners make their way towards a pandemic recovery. But since then, restaurant visits have not increased that much over the last five months because patrons were already out and about navigating CDC protocols and settling in for a meal out on the town.

Across the country, restaurant visits have spiked since January 2021.

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We have actually seen a 41% increase in visits for food and restaurants specifically,” said Megan Wintersteen of Zenreach.

Zenreach is a data company that tracks restaurants and retail. It claims California is leading the way with 136% increase in restaurant visits.

“The largest increases were in the California markets because California was so locked down during the pandemic with restrictions and as they were lifted foot traffic was much higher,” explained Wintersteen.

So how about South Florida and Miami? Are we in on this huge increase?

“Miami, looking at the Florida market, Jacksonville has seen the largest increase about 28%, Miami is kind of on par with the state increase of about 2%, Miami is at 4%.”

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If you think that sounds a little low, there is a reason.

Florida and Miami opened up early and started getting back into business back in 2020.

Despite COVID-19 cases jumping, Governor Ron DeSantis pushed to keep the doors open.

“In a state like Florida where restrictions were maybe not as tight as California, increases are smaller because customers were out and about to some degree,” explained Wintersteen.

Florida is way ahead of other states. So, who is getting the restaurant business? Think pizza and Italian places.

“Because their business model was based on delivery and take out, you did not see pizza and Italian restaurants suffer as much as their counterparts,” said Wintersteen.

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The bottom line is local restaurants, numbers wise, have been doing way better, a lot longer, than those across the country.