New business openings in year two of the pandemic were only 1% down from the year before the pandemic (2019), according to Yelp’s COVID-19 Second Anniversary Report. Demand for socially distant/outdoor options also remains above pre-pandemic levels for dining and other activities.
New business openings are nearly at pre-pandemic levels. In year two of the pandemic, new business openings reached 521,926, up 14% from the first year of the pandemic. This brings new business openings roughly in line (down by just 1%) with the levels Yelp reported in 2019 (the year before the pandemic).
But, business openings in major cities varied. While new business openings rose nationally, the Delta and Omicron variants resulted in decreased business openings in nearly all of the largest metropolitan areas across the country, Yelp said.
Boston, Los Angeles, New York City and Seattle experienced the largest decreases in new business openings during the Delta and Omicron waves. However, certain cities, such as Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit, were able to break this trend and increase new business openings despite the variants.
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Demand for socially distant options still above pre-pandemic levels. The number of Yelp users searching for businesses with outdoor seating increased 292% in year two of the pandemic when compared to pre-pandemic searches. The adoption of Yelp’s outdoor dining attribute has also grown every month since the pandemic began, reaching 25,999 in January 2022.
Consumer interest in many outdoor activities (measured by actions like business profile views, posting photos or reviews) is also still above pre-pandemic levels. Yelp’s report highlighted pickleball, coffee shops, scooter rentals, outdoor movies and horseback riding as some of the biggest winners here.
And, over 12,000 businesses on Yelp have adopted the contactless payment attribute since its introduction in 2020.
Why we care. Despite inflation, bottlenecked supply chains and a labor shortage, Yelp’s data indicates that more businesses are entering local economies, which may be good for local SEO practitioners. However, these new business openings aren’t evenly distributed across the country and many major cities actually experienced a decrease in openings.
Businesses that aren’t offering outdoor options may want to reassess as demand for outdoor seating, for example, is nearly triple what it was before the pandemic. If the availability of vaccines and booster shots has not diminished that demand, then outdoor options may simply be part of the new norm.
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