Restaurant traffic remains headwind for the recovery of the restaurant industry in the United States
The US restaurant industry continues to recover from the sharp declines of last year, although it has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The total number of online and physical visits to restaurants increased by 5% in the year ending September compared to the same period last year, and down 6% from September 2019. While restaurant visits continue to improve overall, restaurant and on-site traffic continues. to fight from pre-pandemic levels, according to The NPD Group.
Restaurant visits are down 48% in the 12 months ending September 2021 from the pre-pandemic level for the year ending September 2019, according to a research press release. Off-establishment orders, such as take-out, drive-through and delivery, are up 20% from two years ago in September. a year ago, and off-premises activity grew 10% during the period, according to NPD’s Daily Track of the U.S. restaurant industry.
Full-service restaurants, which rely heavily on restaurant patrons, suffered the most of all foodservice segments during the pandemic. Visits to FSRs in the year ending September 2021 were up 7% from a 23% drop a year ago. FSR traffic in September was 17% below the pre-pandemic level based on the 12 months ending September 2019. Prior to the pandemic, FSR site visits accounted for 80% of total segment traffic, with the remaining share being off-site. . For the year ending September 2021, restaurant visits represented 56% of FSR traffic, and offsite visits represented 44% of orders or visits.
Quick-service restaurants aren’t as reliant on restaurant visits as FSRs, and most, especially chains, already had well-developed off-site operations when the pandemic began. However, QSRs also lost restaurant visits. Before the pandemic, restaurant visits accounted for 28% of total QSR visits, and in the year ending September 2021, restaurants accounted for 14% of the traffic share. Site visits to QSRs are 52% below pre-pandemic levels and off-site visits are 16% above pre-pandemic levels. Visits to QSRs increased by 4% overall in the year ending September 2021 compared to a year ago, down 4% from the same period ending in September 2019.
“The real headwind for the restaurant industry in the United States remains on-site opportunities,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America, said in the release. “The industry’s workforce issues and consumer reluctance to dine on-site may keep restaurants, especially FSR, at limited capacity and streamlined menus for the near future. “