—Restaurant and foodservice visits increased by 17% in February

Toronto, April 5, 2022 — One of the most predictable behaviours that emerged over the past two years of the pandemic is Canadians will flood into restaurants as soon as restrictions lift, which happened in February, reports The NPD Group. Online and physical visits to Canadian restaurants and foodservice outlets increased by 17% in February compared to February 2021, when traffic declined by 23%. Despite the double-digit increase in visits, commercial foodservice traffic remains -9% below the pre-pandemic level in February 2020, according to NPD’s continual tracking of the Canadian foodservice industry.   

After months of using carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery, Canadians released their pent-up demand for dining at restaurants in February. Dine-in visits increased by 180% compared to a year ago. In February, drive-thru and delivery orders declined by 11% and 2%, respectively, and carry-out increased by 3%. Although the off-premises services fell or had a modest gain in the case of carry-out in the month, these services remain above pre-pandemic levels, reports NPD. Digital restaurant orders had, compared to prior months, a modest gain of 5% in February, which is still 125% above February 2020.  

Full service restaurants were the beneficiaries of consumers’ pent-up demand. Visits to full service restaurants increased by 64% compared to a year ago, although still 16% below February 2020. Traffic to quick service restaurants, which have fared better than full service restaurants throughout the pandemic, increased by 10% in February compared to a year ago and is down 9% from before the pandemic. 

In February, all dayparts, morning meal, lunch, supper, and P.M. snacks grew visits. Restaurant traffic at breakfast or A.M. snack increased by 25% in the month compared to a year ago, lunch increased by 22%, supper by 16%, and p.m. snack by 2% compared to February 2020. While recovering, all dayparts are below pre-pandemic visit levels. 

“The February lift in foodservice traffic is robust, generating growth rates that we haven’t seen since last summer,” says Vince Sgabellone, NPD foodservice industry analyst. “As pandemic restrictions continue to recede through the first quarter, much uncertainty remains around the pace of the foodservice industry’s recovery. But if restaurant dining rooms are permitted to stay open, it seems that we will continue to move in the right direction.”

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