Foodservice orders and spending were up in 2021 from 2020 but were below pre-pandemic levels

Toronto, February 14, 2022 — The Canadian foodservice industry entered 2021 hopeful that the industry could get back on track. The recovery seemed like it was heading in the right direction in the third quarter — with vaccination rates high, COVID infections low, and restrictions lifted, reports The NPD Group. Consumers were anxious to return to their favorite restaurants, and online and physical visits were within just five percentage points of where they were in the same quarter before the pandemic. But the onset of the omicron wave and the return of restrictions suppressed some of the consumer enthusiasm, flattening the recovery curve for the fourth quarter.

All totaled for 2021, consumer spending in commercial foodservice was up by 17% and online and physical traffic by 12% compared to 2020. Although the industry made gains over the prior year, spending is still 11% below 2019, while visits were off by 12%. Online and physical visits to quick service restaurants, which made up 71% of total industry traffic, were up 11% in the 12 months ending December 2021 compared to 2020 and down 8% from 2019. Full service restaurants, which bore the brunt of COVID dine-in restrictions, saw visits increase by 21% in 2021 over a -39% decline in 2020, but still 27% under pre-pandemic levels, according to NPD’s continual tracking of the Canadian foodservice industry.  

The shift to off-premises foodservice orders, like carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery, was substantial in 2021, with dine-in visits hampered by restrictions for much of the year. Off-premises orders, which represented 81% of total foodservice orders, were up 14% in 2021, while on-premises visits were up 4% over the prior year. Carry-out had the most significant gains of off-premises orders, with orders up 21% compared to the preceding year. Delivery orders grew by 13% and drive-thru visits by 3% in 2021 compared to 2020.

“The foodservice landscape has been changed, perhaps permanently, by our ongoing COVID lifestyles,” says Vince Sgabellone, NPD foodservice industry analyst. “The continued strength of off-premises throughout the pandemic may be an indication of permanent change. In 2022, the Canadian foodservice industry will need to continue its path towards reinvention as it works to recapture more lost volume in 2022.”

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