From Farm Journal written by Jennifer Shike.
Although the U.S. restaurant industry has shown remarkable resiliency, a new study from The NPD Group says they still have a long road ahead to get back to pre-pandemic levels.
Restaurants lost as much as 35% of visits at the beginning of the pandemic. Total restaurant visits were down 6% in May 2021 compared to May 2019 but were up 23% from a year ago, recovering from a 23% decline in May 2020, NPD reports.
“The key to the industry’s recovery will be the strength of each daypart. Each daypart — morning meal, lunch, dinner, and p.m. snack — will recover differently depending on the new rhythms of home, school, and work-life,” according to NPD’s continual tracking of the U.S. foodservice industry.
Visits, online or physical, at morning meal, which includes the breakfast and a.m. snack periods, were down 5% in May 2021 compared to May 2020, NPD reports. For a pre-pandemic view, this category is down 11% compared to same month two years ago.
“Since morning meal visits are habitual, recovery for this daypart will depend on consumers returning to workplaces and schools,” NPD reports.
Lunch traffic, which was down 4% this May compared to a year ago and down 10% compared to two years ago, will depend on the return to offices and workplaces and more midday activities such as shopping. Visits at the dinner daypart were down 5% in May 2021 from a year ago and down 12% from two years ago.
“The ability for restaurants, particularly full-service restaurants, to operate at total capacity, consumer comfort with dining in, and more business and recreational travel will aid recovery at the dinner daypart,” NPD reports.
Only one category has increased in the past year – p.m. snacks. NPD says this category has benefited from more flexible schedules blurring the dayparts and customers’ hesitancy to dine in. Visits at p.m. snack were up this May 8% compared to May 2019 and up 3% compared to two years ago.
“Across dayparts, the motivations for visiting restaurants are evolving, necessitating a refocus on how restaurant operators target consumers,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America, said in a release. “Quality, value, and innovation will always be relevant to the consumer, but we also need to recognize that in many ways the world has fundamentally changed.”
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Restaurant Recovery Continues as Consumers Resume Some Meal Habits