Although total U.S. restaurant traffic has been down across dayparts for most of last year and through February 2021, late afternoon and after dinner snack visits — what the restaurant industry calls the p.m. snack daypart — have increased, reports The NPD Group. Consumer visits to restaurants during the p.m. snack period, which ranges from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., increased by 1 percent compared to year ago in February, which was a rough month for the industry with the continuing pandemic and bad weather throughout the U.S. The p.m. snack daypart also gained a 3 percent increase in share of occasions in the last calendar quarter of 2020 while every other daypart posted declines, according to NPD’s daily tracking of how consumers use restaurants.
The top growing reasons consumers give for visiting during the p.m. snack period are the quality of food and desire for a treat. “The kids like it there,” “regularly go there,” and “had a special taste or craving” were all on par as reasons for a p.m. snack visit. Their restaurants of choice tend to be quick service restaurant chains. More substantial meal offerings, like pizza and burgers, have been performing best at p.m. snack, reports NPD.
“Because of the pandemic and the disruption of our normal commuting patterns and daily routines, we have more flexibility in deciding when and what to eat, and p.m. snack is the beneficiary of this fluidity,” says David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry Advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “This growing daypart is a clear opportunity for restaurant operators.”