Toronto, September 29, 2021 — Canada’s commercial foodservice industry remained on a stable course to recovery in August, reports The NPD Group. In August, online and physical visits to restaurants and other foodservice outlets increased by +16% compared to August 2020 and were down -4% compared to the pre-pandemic level in August 2019. Consumer spending increased by +23% in August compared to the same month year ago and is up +1% from August 2019.  

While total foodservice traffic and consumer spending continued to improve in August, the pent-up demand for dining at restaurants seen earlier in the summer slowed in August. In July, dine-in traffic grew by +73% compared to last July, when visits declined by -68%, although still down -47% from the pre-pandemic level in July 2019. Dine-in or on-premises visits increased by +53% in August compared to the same month year ago and were down -42% from two years ago.   

Quick service restaurants, representing 73% of all foodservice visits, are leading the industry’s recovery. Quick service visits increased by +14% in August compared to last August and are down -2% compared to August 2019. Full service restaurants, a segment most impacted by restaurant dine-in restrictions during the pandemic, improved traffic by +30% in August compared to a -33% decline last August.

One of the factors contributing to the softening of full service restaurant traffic in August is that older adults, those 55 and older who were the heaviest users of these types of restaurants, have cut back on their visits. This age group’s share of full service visits has declined from 40% before the pandemic to 33% now.  On the other end of the age spectrum, 18 to 34 year-olds have increased their share of full service visits over the past two years, growing from 20% to 25% share. Still, not enough of a gain to compensate for the older adults’ lost visits.  

“The commercial foodservice performance in August is remarkably like July,” says Vince Sgabellone, NPD foodservice industry analyst. “This is a great sign that the industry’s recovery is stable and that the return to pre-COVID levels may be imminent. However, on-premises and full service performance softened a bit this month, suggesting that early pent-up demand was released, and consumers may now be establishing new out-of-home dining routines. A behavior that foodservice operators and manufacturers need to take note of and respond to.”