STUDY: Increasing Number of Consumer Reviews Mention Inflationary Pressures

In the first half of 2022, they’re also waiting longer than ever to get a reservation at restaurants, according to Yelp's research.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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Yelp Q2 22

Consumers are experiencing inflation at record rates, with review mentions of inflationary language up by 28% compared to Q2 2021, and up by 33% compared to the same time period in 2020, according to the Q2 Yelp Economic Average (YEA) report, a benchmark of local economic strength in the U.S.

For the first time, Yelp found that consumers are reporting experiences of shrinkflation in reviews published in Q2 2022. In response to rising gas prices, Yelp data in the second quarter also points to a nearly two-fold increase in searches for electric vehicles compared to Q2 2021. While fewer consumers sought out higher-priced businesses than earlier in 2022, according to Yelp data, people are still looking for more expensive businesses compared to pre-pandemic. In the first half of 2022, they’re also waiting longer than ever to get a reservation at restaurants.

“Despite rising inflation, activity on Yelp suggests that consumer spending remains strong as people search for higher-priced businesses more frequently than prior to the pandemic,” said Pria Mudan, data science leader at Yelp. “However, that doesn’t mean consumers and businesses aren’t feeling the pinch of inflation. We saw reviewers use inflation-related language at record levels, particularly in the dining, arts and entertainment and travel categories. And for the first time, reviewers are describing shrinkflation-related experiences where the size or quantity of goods are noticeably smaller, which is most referenced at restaurants serving more affordable fare.”

Consumers Report Inflationary Experiences 

While inflation has been rapidly increasing since 2021, consumers have especially experienced inflation at an increasing rate in 2022, as mentions of inflationary language in Yelp reviews are up 7% in Q2 compared to Q1 of this year. When compared to Q2 2021, consumers are experiencing inflation most at more casual restaurants (up 38%) and food businesses (up 36%), followed by arts and entertainment (up 33%), nightlife businesses (up 30%), event services (up 22%), and hotel and travel businesses (up 20%).

However, inflation has not been felt equally across the U.S. In Q2 2022, 47 states (including Washington D.C.) saw an overall increase of inflation mentions in Yelp reviews compared to Q2 2021 – with 35 states seeing more than a 25% increase of inflation mentions. Six of the top 10 states with the highest inflation experiences are in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Washington D.C., New Jersey and New Hampshire.

Searches for Higher Priced Businesses

In Q2 2022, the share of all searches on Yelp using the inexpensive “$” filter increased by 7% compared to Q1 2022, while the share of the highest “$$$$” filter had decreased by 12%. While quarter-over-quarter consumers are generally searching for lower-priced businesses, when compared to pre-pandemic levels (Q2 2019), consumers still searched for higher-priced businesses more frequently in the second quarter of this year. Searches on Yelp using the highest “$$$$” filter increased up by 55% in Q2 2022 compared to Q2 2019, whereas the use of the inexpensive “$” filter decreased by 24%. While restaurants, food, and travel and hotel searches reflect a similar trend, auto services searches oppose the trend.

Planning Ahead

In Q2, the average time elapsed between booking a reservation on Yelp and the reservation date was 3.3 days – a 14% increase in time compared to Q2 2021 and 40% more than pre-pandemic (Q2 2019). Up-and-coming and growing cities saw the largest increase in the average time between booking a restaurant reservation and the date of the reservation in Q2 compared to pre-pandemic: Birmingham, AL; Jacksonville, FL; Grand Rapids, MI; Lancaster, PA; High Point, NC; Austin, TX and Nashville, TN.

The median wait time for Yelp Waitlist restaurants has also been longer this year. The median wait time for a table in Q2 2022 was 35 minutes; whereas the median wait time in the same period in 2021 and 2020, was 22 and 16 minutes, respectively.

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