V-Enable, a voice-enabled mobile 411 system, conducted a study by taking a random sampling of 20,000 searches in major metropolitan areas from customers of several V-Enable partner carriers including Alltel and MetroPCS. The findings clearly represent interesting trends caused by the recession. For one thing, people are eating more pizza! The results for the top restaurant searches for the period between October 2007 and June 2008 are:
1. Pizza Hut
3. Domino’s Pizza
5. Papa John’s Pizza
6. Little Caesars Pizza
7. Taco Bell
8. Burger King
Sit-down restaurants like Olive Garden, Applebee’s and Red Lobster, have dropped off the list, while recession-proof comfort food like Pizza Hut and Domino’s shoot to the top of the list. 380% more searches for Pizza Hut have been conducted during the period, and searches for Domino’s Pizza have increased 980%. High gas prices are keeping people at home ordering in, and they are opting for cheaper alternatives. Financial analysts have explored this area extensively, and have deemed several of these restaurant chains “recession-proof stocks.”
There are several other search-related economic indicators from V-Enable. U-Haul, a company that was never on any top 50 list, jumped to #23 in general search, possibly because of a rise in foreclosures. Macy’s dropped from #17 to #49 in retail, a direct correlation to the fact that people just don’t have the discretionary income that they used to. Motel 6 has never showed up on a top 50 list, but they are now #37 in general search, quite possibly because travelers can’t afford the costly alternatives. Mobile search happens in real-time and is unaffected by SEO, making these statistics arguably more reflective of consumer sentiment than web search.
V-Enable is a mobile information system, where users can speak the name of a restaurant or residential listing and receive location and contact information. The company also has live operators working behind the scenes so that users can call and get human assistance, if necessary. V-Enable sent us similar retail statistics in December. The company is backed by $10.1 million over 3 rounds from Siemens Mobile Acceleration Corporation, Sorrento Ventures, SoftBank Capital and Palisades Ventures.