Severe weather in many parts of the country in February hampered the softening of customer transaction declines at major U.S. restaurant chains reported in the last few months of 2020 and this January, finds The NPD Group. Major restaurant chain customer transactions declined by 13 percent versus year ago, compared to a 9 percent decline in January, 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.

Record-shattering cold, snow, and rain affected a large swath of the U.S. in February. Texas, the second most populated state after California, was hit with a winter storm in mid-February that dropped significant amounts of snow along with a cold wave across the state. As a result, the state’s power grids—unable to sustain the higher-than-normal energy and heating demand from residential and business customers—failed. During this period, customer transactions at major restaurant chains in Texas declined by 46 percent compared to year ago, reports NPD.

Customer transactions at major full-service restaurant chains, which have been challenged throughout the pandemic by mandated dine-in restrictions and shutdowns, decreased by 33 percent in February versus year ago. Major quick service restaurants chains, which represent the bulk of the restaurant industry transactions, realized a 12 percent decline in customer transactions in the month compared to year ago.

“Aside from any unforeseen events or severe weather in major parts of the country, we should see customer transaction declines improving in the months to come,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “The next several months will help us plot the course for the U.S. restaurant industry’s recovery.”

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