Yelp searches tell the story of coronavirus spikes

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

The crowd-sourced review site's new economic report tracks the fate of small businesses and shows a rise in searches for Black-owned enterprises.

When Whisknladle, a La Jolla, CA., farm-to-table restaurant was forced to permanently shut down due to COVID-19, hundreds of diners took to Instagram to mourn the loss.

"While we dreamed Whisk would be one of those institutions that could withstand the test of time, 12+ years in restaurant terms is something we can be proud of," noted its founders in a farewell post. "Now more than ever, we urge all of you reading this to find ways to support your favorite restaurants or local businesses so they can have a fighting chance."

A new research report by the crowd-sourced referral site, Yelp, indicates Whisknladle’s demise mirrors the fate of many small businesses. In fact, restaurants now account for the majority of business closures, passing shuttered retail establishments, according to Yelp, in July.

The Q2 2020 Yelp Economic Average report tallied 26,160 restaurant closures as of July 10, an increase of 2,179 since June 15. Six out of 10 of these closures are considered to be permanent.

But there are a few bright spots, including increased interest in Black-owned businesses and fewer closures at small web and graphic design shops.

Overall, as more states move into phased reopenings, fewer businesses are closed. But, paradoxically, of those that are closed, more are announcing they’ve shut down for good, as the coronavirus has endured.

In June, Yelp reported that 41% of business closures were marked as permanent on the site versus temporary, while July’s report cited 55% of closed businesses were now permanent.

Other findings reveal that Las Vegas’ collapsed tourism economy spurred 861 local businesses to permanently close doors. The city with the largest number of combined temporary and permanent business closures, though, is Los Angeles at 11,342.

The report also tracked how increased business searches are proving to be a leading indicator for COVID spikes.

Yelp tracking data showed states that started to reopen in May, including Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Texas, also saw a significant increase in consumer interest in bars, restaurants and gym reviews.

By June, these same states also showed increases in coronavirus cases. Yelp noted a 50%-plus increase in consumer searches for restaurants, gyms and bars in the 10 states with the largest spikes in positive cases.

Now the bright spots. Yelp logged a staggering 7,043% increase in searches for Black-owned businesses between May 25 to July 10 and the same period last year.

People logged in more than 2,500,000 such searches since the day George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, spurring protests, and, under the radar, business inquiries.

Yelp’s analysis of office closures reveals some businesses are holding on a little better than others, certainly when compared to restaurants.

Web design shops reported 402 business closures on Yelp and graphic designers 308, suggesting remote-based teams are keeping many of these smaller practitioners afloat.

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