U.S. Restaurant Chain Transactions Drop by 36% As Mandated Restaurant Dine-In Closures Take Effect

Full service restaurant transactions decline by 71%

Chicago, IL, March 30, 2020 — The mandated restaurant dine-in closures that took effect in most states beginning the week ending March 22 took a toll on U.S. restaurant transactions, reports The NPD Group. Total restaurant customer transactions declined by 36% in the week ending March 22 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. 

Customer transactions at quick service restaurants, which represent the bulk of restaurant industry transactions and have more off-premise business than full service restaurants, decreased by 34% in the week ending March 22 compared to year ago. As full service restaurants, which are heavily reliant on dine-in sales, struggled to quickly convert to off-premise modes, customer transactions dropped by 71%.

According to NPD’s restaurant location database, ReCount®, about 94% of U.S. restaurants were under some level of restrictions, with most prohibiting on-premise service.  On-premise represents 52% of restaurant industry dollars, and off-premise, like carry out, drive thru, and delivery, represent 48% of dollars.  As of year ending February 2020, digital orders represented 13% of all off-premise dollars. 

“It’s highly probable that this crisis will define winners and losers by their digital proficiency since consumers may prefer the contactless delivery protocol that digital ordering offers,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Now that we’re living in a world where the entire industry is an off-premise business, digital orders gain importance and provide an edge to those who already lead in that space.”

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