There’s a lot of news swirling around there about how COVID-19 is hurting local businesses, and for restaurants, things are looking especially grim. But what does the data actually say? Yelp and Foursquare recently released some analysis of internal data that gives insight into how our relationship with restaurants, dining, and more is shifting dramatically during this very abnormal time.
Yelp notes that many of the changes in restaurant and food business are a direct result of “the home’s rising status as the place to eat.” Considering we’re supposed to be social distancing — and a growing number of restaurants are forced to close their doors to diners, anyway — that’s not exactly surprising.
The numbers are pretty bleak for restaurants. Yelp reports that U.S. consumer interest in restaurants has fallen by about 54 percent. They only looked at data from the data range of March 8 to 18, so the number has probably increased as more and more cities and states restrict dine-in capabilities for restaurants. Simultaneously, Yelp notes that delivery and take-out are “2X more popular than usual.”
What sort of food is popular during the corona-pocalypse? Basically, anything that is suited for delivery and pickup. That means dim sum restaurants, French restaurants, and other spots geared towards more leisurely meals eaten in the restaurant dining room are suffering. Sales from food trucks and breweries are also down.
The news isn’t bad for all restaurants, though — some are actually thriving in the new normal of COVID-19. Sales from pizzerias and fast food restaurants are up 44 percent and 64 percent, respectively. Unsurprisingly, Yelp says that sales of beer, wine, and spirits are up 63 percent. And in your daily dose of heart-warming news, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or deliveries of farm produce, are up a whopping 405 percent.
Foursquare released its own data examining the change in foodservice foot traffic from February 19 to March 13. Like Yelp, it showed that QSRs are actually experiencing an uptick in traffic, though it cited a much smaller rise of 11 percent. Foursquare noted that QSR visits are down in areas with higher infection rates, like Washington state, but up in areas of the country with lower alert levels.
Yelp points out that these shifts haven’t affected all of the U.S. in the same way. The impact is most significant near the coasts and more muted in the Midwest and Southeast, despite the fact that many cities and states have mandated dine-in closures in those areas. However, Yelp notes that every state reflects, at least to some degree, “the new reality of the coronavirus economy — that is, until it changes quickly again.”
To help restaurants struggling with this new reality, Yelp announced today that it would contribute $25 million to support local restaurants in the form of waived advertising fees and even free advertising.
That’s nice and all, but all the advertising in the world might not be enough to keep restaurants afloat. Some spots don’t have enough saved to keep paying rent/staff with significant diminished income. Others aren’t able to effectively pivot to a delivery- or pickup-only menu.
I don’t want to end this post on a glum note, but faced with cold, hard numbers, it can be hard not to feel scared for the future of local restaurants. So do what you can to support — go buy a gift card, tip a bartender virtually, or just place a pick-up order to support your favorite neighborhood spot. Maybe together we can help change some of these numbers.