Business Openings Recover, Reopenings Rise

The annual Yelp Economic Average signals strengthened consumer interest in pre-pandemic activities. 

January 29, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO—Last year was full of unexpected challenges, and local businesses served as a mirror for the fluctuations that defined the U.S. economy. Yelp Economic Average reports on business closures across the country in the second and third quarters and the resilience of local businesses evidenced through new openings and reopenings. While the pandemic continues to drive uncertainty in the economy, fourth-quarter data demonstrate early evidence of an economic recovery.

To conclude the year, Yelp extended analysis on the openings and reopenings of local businesses during yet another wave (the highest on record) of COVID-19 cases across the nation, noting a sustained volume of both measures through the fourth quarter. Business owners had nearly nine months of experience operating during the pandemic and were better prepared to adapt their businesses amid new sets of local restrictions. Similarly, consumers have adjusted to the “new normal,” showing restraint in their vacation plans, displaying an increased interest in non-traditional wedding celebrations and learning how to adapt their weekend plans to meet a COVID-safe lifestyle.

During the third quarter, restaurant and food businesses opened at pre-pandemic levels, due largely to the innovative ways business owners moved their operations outside during the milder months and prioritized opening less traditional foodservices, such as farmers markets and food trucks.

Opening a business amid an international pandemic is no easy feat, especially when the virus is airborne and the business is in the foodservice sector. Entrepreneurs in the restaurant and food categories focused on health and safety, as well as new approaches to serve their customers, such as takeout and outdoor dining.

Yelp’s data indicate that the number of restaurant and food business openings approached and even surpassed 2019 levels in the fourth quarter. Openings were determined by counting new businesses listed on Yelp. Restaurant and food business owners opened 18,207 restaurants nationwide in the fourth quarter, down only 4% from 2019—and down only 16% comparing the full year of 2020 to 2019. In October 2020, 12 more restaurants were opened than in October of 2019.

New openings were up year over year in the fourth quarter for grab-and-go foodservices including: food trucks (1,507 openings), desserts (1,410 openings), gourmet food stores (955 openings) and bakeries (913 openings).