Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers still show a strong preference for outdoor dining, despite lifting of mask mandates and consumers feeling more comfortable about being inside with strangers. This is something marketers should recognize when planning marketing or advertising campaigns.
Patrons believe the pandemic-fueled shift toward open-air dining and gathering can reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus, according to data released today from Yelp.
The number of businesses adopting outdoor dining has grown monthly since the pandemic began, reaching 25,999 in January 2022. Consumer searches for businesses with outdoor seating continues above pre-pandemic levels -- increasing 292% during the second year of the pandemic when compared to pre-pandemic searches.
But it is not just outdoor dining that is seeing an uptick in interest. Outdoor activities across several categories have seen sustained popularity on Yelp. In the second year of the pandemic, consumer interest increased above pre-pandemic levels in many outdoor activities including all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and scooter rentals, dog parks, horseback riding, tennis, and golf among others like petting zoos and boating.
Notably during the same period consumer interest in coffee shops increased 108%, a favorite for outdoor seating and WiFi.
Yelp identified the months July and August as the “Delta variant” and the months of December and January as an “Omicron variant,” and totaled the number of business openings during these months in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Then it compared the effects of the “Delta” and “Omicron” variants of COVID-19 on business openings across the U.S., selecting 20 core based statistical areas representing densely populated metropolitan areas of the U.S. to provide diverse geographic context for these comparisons.