Economy League – Restaurant Revitalization Funds in Philadelphia

SOURCE: U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns

NOTE: The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns survey does not list any establishments in the NAICS accommodation and food services sector for zip code 19110 in Center City. The map does not include calculated values for RRF coverage rates or grant amount per establishment for this zip code.


Unsurprisingly, neighborhoods with large numbers of establishments in the food and accommodation sector also saw the highest number of grants awarded. In fact, the same five zip codes with the highest estimates of food and accommodation sector establishments in 2019 had the highest number of businesses receiving RRF grants in 2021. Of these zip codes, three were in Center City (19103, 19104, 19107), one in the adjacent zip code covering the Bella Vista and Queen Village neighborhoods (19147), and the last in University City (19104). The same zip codes in Center City and University City, with the addition of 19102, round out the list of zip codes receiving the greatest total amount of funds in Philadelphia.


Normalizing both the number of grant recipients and the amounts awarded by the estimate of food and accommodation establishments in each zip code, however, reveals allocation patterns that are less geographically confined. These numbers revealed a wide gulf in RRF coverage rates across Philadelphia, with some areas seeing RRF coverage rates as high as 20 percent while others saw only two percent coverage. Of the five zip codes with the highest coverage rates, only one was in Center City (19107) and one in University City (19135), with the others located in outlying areas, like Mount Airy (19119), Oak Lane (19126) and Overbrook (19151). Areas of the city with the lowest coverage rates were largely concentrated in North and Northeast Philadelphia, with less than a four percent RRF coverage rate in Bridesburg (19137), Cedarbrook (19150), West Oak Lane (19138), Torresdale (19114) and Tacony (19135).


To assess how the amount of funding available to food establishments varied across the city, we proportioned the combined awarded amounts for each zip code by the total number of estimated food and accommodation establishments. With a concentration of high-volume and high-end venues, Center City was unsurprisingly the location of four of the five top performing zip codes for this metric. Oak Lane (19126), however, had the highest average grant amount of $99,757. The zip codes with the lowest average grant amounts were in North and West Philadelphia in the neighborhoods of Logan (19141), Fairhill (19133), Strawberry Mansion (19132), Bridesburg (19137) and Walnut Hill (19139).



Distribution totals, both in the count and total amount of RRF grants awarded, confirm the predominance of Center City and University City as center of the food and accommodation industry in Philadelphia, and shed light onto the scale of the pandemic’s economic impact in these areas. Additionally, the high allocation rates for catering businesses also indicate the scale of lost income caused by the decline in special events and large gatherings since 2020.


Less obvious, however, is the disparity in access to RRF help across Philadelphia’s neighborhoods revealed by the data. The vast difference in the percentage of food and accommodation establishments receiving support from the RRF indicate that businesses in certain parts of the city, particularly North, Northeast, and West Philadelphia, face significantly more hurdles in accessing economic recovery resources. These data bear out findings from both our original coverage of allocated PPP loans in Philadelphia as well as an earlier report from the Philadelphia Business Journal, which show that a significantly smaller percentage of businesses in high-poverty areas received funds from COVID relief programs. These data alone do not provide a complete explanation for the divide between neighborhoods, but as policymakers work towards revitalizing Philadelphia’s economy after the pandemic, or minimizing damage from a possible resurgence, it is clear that businesses outside the city’s economic center are struggling to access the tools being made available. Helping businesses to return to normal may rely less on increasing the amount of money available, and more on helping underrepresented business owners identify and secure existing funds.


Works Cited

[1] “Restaurant Revitalization Funding Program Guide as of April 28, 2021” | U.S. Small Business Administration |


[2] “Number of Establishments in Private NAICS 722 Food services and drinking places for All establishment sizes in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, NSA” | Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages |


[3] “Restaurant Relief Fund Data Dictionary” | U.S. Small Business Administration |



[4] “Delta Impact Increasingly Threatens Some Parts of U.S. Economy” | Bloomberg | August 5, 2021 |


[5] “Center City office vacancy rates are increasing. The problem is partly, but not only, low vaccination rates” | | August 23, 2021 |


[6] “Philadelphia businesses in high-poverty areas awarded less in Covid-19 relief funds, report finds” |Philadelphia Business Journal | June 24, 2020 |