Full service
restaurant transactions decline by 79%

Chicago, IL, April 6, 2020 — The majority of U.S. restaurants are now impacted by mandated dine-in closures, reports The NPD Group.  Restaurant customer transactions dropped by 42% in the week ending March 29 compared to same week year ago, according to NPD’s CREST® Performance Alerts, which provides a rapid weekly view of chain-specific transactions and share trends for 70 quick service, fast casual, midscale, and casual dining chains. 

While steep transaction declines are being seen industry-wide, some restaurant models are better suited than others to retain existing off-premise business, like drive-thru, carry-out, and delivery. Quick service restaurants, which historically have more off-premise business, realized transaction declines of 40% in the week ending March 29 compared to same period year ago, whereas full service restaurants, which aren’t typically set up for off-premise dining, declined 79%. 

About 97% of U.S. restaurants are now under some level of restrictions, with most prohibiting dine-in service, according to NPD’s restaurant census, ReCount®.  Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, on-premise dining represented 52% of restaurant industry dollars, and off-premise, like carry out, drive thru, and delivery, represented 48% of dollars. Carry-out represented the largest dollar share at 53% of off-premise modes, drive-thru 38%, and delivery 9% of dollars. As of year ending February 2020, digital orders represented 13% of all off-premise dollars. 

“The transaction declines partially reflect the struggle of on-premise restaurants to pivot to off-premise models,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry
advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America
. “Many restaurants that are attempting to make the move are doing so with limited menu offerings and without the benefit of drive-thru lanes. Anecdotally, some operators are giving up the cause and closing altogether.”