Q3 Yelp Economic Average Finds that Consumers’ Inflationary Experiences Intensify Across the U.S., as People Increasingly Turn to Budget Options
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Local businesses and communities now face a new set of challenges in addition to the lingering impacts of the pandemic, from continuing supply chain issues and delays, workforce shortages and reductions, and the highest inflation rate in 40 years. These disruptions contribute to the rapidly increasing price of goods and services, which in Q3 led consumers to opt for more affordable options.
Yelp has continued to track the effects of these factors and how consumer behaviors have shifted, finding that in Q3 2022, consumers continue to experience inflation, with every state in the U.S. seeing a year-over-year increase in mentions of inflation in Yelp reviews. Regionally, the Southwest is experiencing the highest increases in inflation mentions quarter over quarter, while the Midwest is experiencing the highest increase year over year. Yelp data shows that food businesses are seeing one of the largest increases of inflationary experiences compared to Q3 2021, followed by restaurants, then businesses in the categories of beauty and spas, arts and entertainment, nightlife and bars, and hotels and travel. In response, Yelp data also reveals that consumer searches for budget-friendly dining and grocery options are higher than Q3 2021.
Consumers Increasingly Feel the Impact of Inflation
In June, the annual inflation rate peaked at 9.1%, a 40-year all-time high. Although it has since decreased, dropping to 8.2% in September, it remains above market forecasts. As consumers continue to show increased signs of inflation fatigue, the frequency of inflationary language in Yelp reviews rose by 4% in Q3, compared to the previous quarter. When compared to the previous year, reviews mentioning inflationary experiences jumped up by 22% in Q3 2022.
Consumers Continue Experiencing Inflation at a Growing Rate
Mentions of inflationary language in Yelp Reviews, Q3 2020 – Q3 2022
Inflation Hit the Southwest the Hardest in the Past Quarter
While inflation is affecting communities nationwide, consumers are experiencing it differently depending on where they live. Every U.S. state, as well as Washington D.C., saw an increase in inflation mentions in Yelp reviews compared to Q3 2021 – with Alaska, Kentucky, and Iowa experiencing the highest increases in inflation according to Yelp reviews.
Mentions of Inflation Have Increased in Every State Since Last Year
Regionally, Yelp data shows that the Southwest is experiencing the highest quarter-over-quarter growth of inflation mentions – up 7% compared to Q2 2022 – driven by businesses in the categories of active life (up 16%), food (up 13%), and arts and entertainment (up 11%). With more people traveling over the summer, businesses in several outdoor activity categories contributed to the increase, including bike rentals (up 313%), outdoor gear (up 215%), and boating (up 197%).
Meanwhile, the Midwest is experiencing the highest growth of inflation mentions compared to Q3 2021 – up 26% – largely driven by food businesses (up 40%), event planning and services (up 38%), and restaurants (up 30%). One notable category is wholesale stores, which saw 14 times more inflation mentions over the past year.
The Categories Driving Inflation Mentions Vary by Region
Categories with the highest increase in mentions of inflationary language in Yelp reviews by region, Q3 2022 vs. previous quarters
Food Businesses Saw One of the Largest Increases of Inflationary Experiences in the Past Year, Followed by Restaurants, Beauty, Arts and Entertainment, and Nightlife
In Q3, consumers are still experiencing acute inflation across various Yelp categories, most noticeably with food businesses, followed by restaurants. As the U.S. food service industry grapples with workforce shortages and supply chain challenges, Yelp data shows that inflation mentions in reviews for food businesses and restaurants have increased by 7% and 5% respectively, compared to Q2 2022 – and even more compared to Q3 2021, up by 31% and 28%.
Grocery stores and food markets make up four of the five food businesses with the highest increase in inflation experiences compared to Q3 2021, including health markets (up 61%), markets (up 55%), convenience stores (up 52%), and organic stores (up 51%). Following grocery, dessert businesses saw an average increase in inflation mentions of 29% compared to Q3 2021, driven by custom cakes (up 54%), donuts (up 49%), bakeries (up 40%), and shaved ice (up 39%). Restaurants serving Asian cuisine make up a quarter of all Yelp restaurant categories that saw an increase in inflationary language in their reviews, particularly Mongolian restaurants (up 89%), Filipino restaurants (up 65%), and Japanese curry restaurants (up 60%).
Beauty services and spas also saw a notable increase in inflationary experiences, up 6% compared to Q2 2022 and up 21% compared to Q3 2021, largely from tanning services, such as tanning beds (up 216%), spray tanning (up 91%), and tanning (up 91%) compared to Q3 2021. Arts and entertainment businesses, as well as nightlife and bars, also saw increases in inflation mentions of 8% and 3% respectively compared to Q2 2022 – even more significantly increasing by 19% and 17% year over year.
Amid inflation, travel demand has increased, with consumers booking revenge travel as pandemic restrictions are lifted. Hotel and travel businesses have seen an increase in inflationary language of 10% compared to Q3 2021, particularly related to lodging businesses. RV parks (up 47%) saw the highest increase, compared to Q3 2021, followed by bed and breakfasts (up 22%), vacation rentals (up 16%), and resorts (up 17%).
As 2022 becomes a boom year for weddings – with a predicted 2.5 million weddings, the most since 1984 – categories related to weddings have seen an average increase in inflation mentions of 29% compared to Q3 2021, including session photography (up 80%), photographers (up 54%), formalwear (up 57%), wedding planning (up 35%), catering (up 35%), floral designers (up 31%) and bridal (up 18%).
Restaurant and Food Businesses Have Seen Significant Increases in Inflationary Experiences
Mentions of inflationary language in Yelp reviews, Q3 2020 – Q3 2022
As Inflation Remains High, Users Are Increasingly Searching for Budget-friendly Dining and Grocery Options
With sustained high prices, consumers are increasingly looking to frequent more inexpensive food and dining options, which are typically regional and national brands. In Q3 2022, searches for budget dining and groceries are up by 11% from the previous quarter and 9% compared to Q3 2021.
The Q2 Yelp Economic Average found that the share of all searches on Yelp using the inexpensive “$” filter increased by 7% and the use of the moderately low “$$” filter increased by 5% compared to Q1 2022. In Q3, Yelp data shows that consumers have continued to prioritize affordability, this time searching for affordable groceries 67% more often compared with the previous quarter and 126% more compared to Q3 2021. Additionally, searches related to budget dining, such as fast food and fast casual, are up by 10% compared with the previous quarter and 8% more compared to Q3 2021.
Consumers Search for Even More Budget Dining and Grocery Options
Change in searches for various budget dining and grocery options, Q3 2022 vs. previous quarters
Not all states are turning to these budget options equally, Yelp data shows that the states with the highest increase in searches related to affordable dining and groceries in the past quarter were Washington D.C. (up 27%), Louisiana (up 26%), New York (up 25%), West Virginia (up 24%), Pennsylvania (up 20%), and Mississippi (up 20%).
Consumers are Searching for Affordable Dining and Groceries More in Nearly Every State
Although many consumers are continuing to feel the long-term effects of inflation, consumer spending remains strong, and the pandemic has proven that local businesses and communities are resilient. Yelp will continue to monitor developments from the intersection of consumers, businesses, and economic trends in our upcoming economic reports.
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Review Text Mentions of Inflation
We analyzed review text from Q3 2020 through Q3 2022 to observe how Yelp consumers are referencing inflation in reviews. These inflation references can include phrases mentioning inflation itself or higher or rising prices at businesses. The volume of review text phrases are normalized to the mention frequency per every million words, and is calculated for each Yelp category and on a national, regional, and state basis. A minimum threshold of review mentions was implemented to uncover the most noteworthy inflation experiences.
Consumer searches for budget dining and groceries
Budget dining and groceries searches refer to queries such as “fast casual”, “fast food”, “cheap eats”, and “cheap grocery store”, among others. When analyzing the search behavior, we measured the appearance of budget dining and groceries related phrases in every million Yelp searches. We compared the search behavior period over period to inform how consumer dining preferences had changed across locations.
Downloadable static graphics can be found here.
See Yelp's previous Coronavirus Economic Impact Reports at our Data Science Medium, Locally Optimal.