With nearly 320,000 restaurants in the U.S. now allowed to offer on-premise dining in some form, declines in customer transactions at major restaurant chains have eased up a bit as the coronavirus pandemic continues, according to research firm The NPD Group.
Total major restaurant chain transactions declined by 18 percent in the week ending May 24 compared to the same week one year ago. That’s a 25 percent gain from the steepest pandemic-related decline of 43 percent in the week ending April 12.
Different restaurant segments are seeing different rates of improvement. According to NPD Group, major full-service chain restaurant transactions declined by 42 percent for the week ending May 24 versus the same time a year ago. That’s a 7 percent improvement over the previous week’s decline of 49 percent compared to a year ago.
Transactions at quick-service chains, meanwhile, dropped 17 percent during that same week compared to the previous year, an improvement from the 20 percent decline in the prior week.
NPD’s market research also found that total industry traffic—at both chain and independent restaurants—was down 35 percent in April compared to April 2019. Drive-thru, primarily at quick-service stores, made up 46 percent of all restaurant occasions. Digital orders also soared by 106 percent in April, now accounting for 20 percent of all restaurant occasions.
“Among the most interesting behaviors we’re seeing is the rapid escalation of using technology to engage with restaurants,” said David Portalatin, NPD Group’s food industry advisor. “Going forward, we might expect a digital divide that sets apart restaurants with well-executed digital offerings and requires those without [that ability] to turn to the newfound prowess of third-party platforms.”