PHOENIX - New data reveals that although dining-in is down significantly in the US, Arizona actually has more people eating at restaurants than nearly every other state.
But, it’s going to be a slow return to normal for nearly every business. The restaurant industry has had to limit capacity and seating to make sure people are socially distant.
However, the state's return to normalcy is becoming prevalent.
"Really pleased with the response," Castro said. "We’ve been busy."
Many eateries felt uncertainty as they shifted to wearing masks, distancing tables and sanitizing constantly.
"You don’t know how many people are coming to expect," said Castro. "We’ve been scrambling a little bit, but it’s been good."
The return to tables has been happening faster in Arizona than most everywhere else in the US.
According to data from Open Table, on May 12, there were 80% less seated diners in Arizona than on the same day in 2019. A week later on the 19th -- 71% less diners.
On May 23? 59.9% less diners.
Only South Carolina and Alabama have more people returning to restaurants.
Governor Doug Ducey tweeted out the data, saying he’s grateful to owners and staff for prioritizing safety while returning to business.
The Arizona Restaurant Association says Arizona is poised for a comeback.
"We’re over a 13 billion dollar economy in Arizona alone [as of] last year," said Steve Chucri from the Arizona Restuarant Association. "We're hopeful we're going to see those numbers return. We lost 815 million dollars in the month of April in Arizona."
Thirsty Lion's diners are certainly happy to regain a sense of normalcy.
"People are celebrating, they’re happy, they’re free and can do what they want to do," said Keith Castro. "Restaurants are a missing part of society."