Total customer transactions at major U.S. restaurant chains declined by 14 percent in the week ending July 12 versus year ago, compared to negative 11 percent in the prior week. Quick service restaurant chains drove the decline, decelerating 4 points to negative 13 percent year-over-year while full-service restaurant chains improved declines by 3 points to negative 26 percent year-over-year.

A reversal from last week when full-service restaurants drove the declines and quick-serves fueled the improvement in declines, according to NPD’s CREST Performance Alerts, which provides a rapid weekly view of chain-specific transactions and share trends for 75 quick service, fast casual, midscale, and casual dining chains representing 53 percent of the commercial restaurant traffic in U.S.

“Last week when quick service restaurants drove the improvements in restaurant customer transaction declines, I highlighted the apparent divergence in trend between quick service and full service restaurants, supported by sound reasoning about on-premises and off-premises models, the pace of reopening and reclosing, and the resurgence in COVID -19 cases around the country,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America . “The flip in declines this week from quick service restaurants to full service restaurants is a reminder that the world is unpredictable today and we should expect twists and turns on the bumpy road to recovery. Still, the pre-COVID trend that favored quick service restaurants and the segment’s expertise in offering off-premises services, like drive-thru and delivery, has accelerated during the pandemic and will continue to do so in the long-term.”

The estimated percentage of U.S. restaurants that are permitted to have on-premises dining in the week ending July 12 declined to 82 percent from 90 percent in the prior week, according to NPD’s restaurant census ReCount.

The majority of the change was in California. In week ending July 12, most California restaurants were once again off-premises only statewide. As a result, California’s full-service transactions declined 6 points to negative 51 percent versus year ago, the lowest percentage of any state.

In week ending July 19, full-service restaurants volume in California will be completely off-premises, which will lead to restaurants in the state ramping up delivery programs, streamlining menus and repurposing parking lots as temporary drive-thru lanes. As the state with the nation’s largest number of restaurants, this will certainly contribute to the reshaping of restaurant operations in the new normal.

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