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Coronavirus: Food delivery is 300 times more popular vs. a month ago, according to Yelp data

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Ethan Wolff-Mann
·Senior Writer
·3 min read
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Delivery and takeout have surged 300x.(Yelp)
Delivery and takeout have surged 300x.(Yelp)

The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic effect on how people spend money, reshaping the current landscape industry by industry.

With millions of Americans ordered to stay at home and millions of businesses closed to stem the spread of coronavirus, consumer spending overall has slowed.

According to Yelp’s (YELP) coronavirus economic impact report that measures interest in categories, some are booming.

“Coronavirus is quickly reshaping every corner of the U.S. local economy — and Yelp data is reflecting the upheaval in real time,” Carl Bialik, the company’s data science editor, wrote.

One significant change reported by Yelp: what consumers are eating.

“Restaurants that specialize in delivery and takeout appear to have weathered the storm better than food businesses that until a month ago were focused more on dining in,” Yelp’s report said. “Delivery is 300x more popular than usual.”

For example, chicken-wing and pizza restaurants saw interest rise 103% and 88%, respectively, since March 1. On the other hand, French, breakfast-and-brunch, and hot-pot restaurants saw 59%, 44%, and 42% drops, respectively.

The trend is even more pronounced in grocery and other home-prep food categories. Grocery store interest is up 144% and community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares are up 455%.

The rise in interest, measured in Yelp’s business page views as well as comments and photo uploads in reviews, are a proxy for economic activity; they don’t represent actual sales — though it seems to align with anecdotal reports of exercise equipment selling out and food and alcohol hoarding.

Not surprisingly, areas with more outbreaks have seen more disruption to typical consumer interest models. New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., has seen far more of this shift than any other location so far.

New York City has seen the biggest economic shift thus far, tracking where the outbreak is worst. (Yelp)
New York City has seen the biggest economic shift thus far, tracking where the outbreak is worst. (Yelp)

A few categories have been soaring, despite the crunch

The trends continue far past the food and restaurant industry, where social distancing guidelines have brought activity to a grinding halt, except for those delivery-centric businesses.

Interest in home exercise equipment is up 547%, pet breeders 144%, and tobacco, cannabis, and vape interest is up over 100% as well — just like many wine stores that have gotten their pickup/delivery protocols in order.

Bizarrely, art galleries and strip clubs have fared well, seeing increases of 73% and 116%, as both industries have used creative solutions using the internet. A member of the New Art Dealers Alliance told Yahoo Finance that this uptick in art interest didn’t square with what most of the industry was experiencing, despite some creative solutions by some galleries.

Given the apocalyptic nature of the pandemic, there’s also been an uptick in interest in firearms on Yelp, with gunsmiths just behind farm shares and exercise equipment — but ahead of skilled nursing.

Throughout Yelp’s data, more surprises emerged. Cosmetics and beauty supply interest spiked 147% — despite stay-at-home orders — as well as lakes, country clubs, and event photography.

Some surprises here. (Yelp)
Some surprises here. (Yelp)

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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