How COVID-19 Lockdowns Impacted Restaurant Visits
Comparing the impact of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders on urban and rural visitation patterns
Tannista Banerjee, Arnab Nayak, and HaiYue Zhao explore the impact COVID-19 stay-at-home orders (or lockdowns) that started in March of 2020 had on businesses — specifically restaurants.
Their analysis focuses largely on the different impact stay-at-home orders had on visits to rural and urban restaurants. In the future, the findings could help inform public policy, operational food planning and distribution during a pandemic, and more systemic issues regarding access to food in different counties.
Their research relied heavily on SafeGraph’s Core Places database, which contains visitor data for restaurants in the USA. With point of interest (POI) and visitor foot traffic data, they could gain a clear picture of restaurant visitation before — and during — the stay-at-home order.
First, their findings show a direct correlation between the total number of COVID-19 cases and the number of restaurant visits. As COVID-19 cases go up, restaurant cases decline. As you can see from this chart, restaurant visits begin dropping significantly prior to major increases in COVID-19 cases, and even prior to major media coverage.
Their research found that the shelter-in-place orders decreased weekly urban restaurant visits by 16% and weekly rural restaurant visits by 8%, showing that COVID-19 had twice the negative impact on urban restaurants.
More interestingly, against expectations, counties with higher proportions of their population living under the poverty level had higher restaurant visits; higher income counties show lower restaurant visits.
Check out the original paper here:
Banerjee, T., Nayak, A. & Zhao, H. A county-level study of the effects of state-mandated COVID-19 lockdowns on urban and rural restaurant visits using consumers’ cell phone geo-location data. J Public Health (Berl.) (2021).
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