With students returning to schools, employees returning to workplaces, and more out-of-home activities, some aspects of the US restaurant industry adversely affected by schooling, working, and staying at home during the early stages of the pandemic are starting to improve, reports The NPD Group. For example, breakfast, morning snack, and lunch dayparts were impacted by people not being outside their homes during these times, and now that many are, restaurant visits for these meals and snacks are increasing.
In the last three months ending November, online and physical visits to restaurants for breakfast increased by 11% compared to a 10% decline in the same period a year ago. From a pre-pandemic view, breakfast traffic is now at the same level as the September through November period in 2019. Morning snack improved visits over the last three months by 6% compared to a 7% decline last year and down 1% for the same period in 2019. Lunch improved by 4% in the reported period compared to a year ago when visits were down by 11%, so beginning to recover but still 7% below pre-pandemic levels, according to NPD's continual tracking of the U.S. foodservice industry.
While very hard-hit during the pandemic, dining on-premises is recovering – even during morning and lunch occasions. Dining on-premises at restaurants for breakfast has also improved over the last three months. Visits to dine-in at breakfast increased by 51% in September through November this year compared to the same period in 2020 when on-premises traffic was down 55%. Morning snack also increased dine-in visits by 51% compared to the reported period last year when on-premises traffic declined by 48%. Lunch also improved on-premises traffic by 44% this September through November compared to the 60% decline in the same period in 2020. Despite these substantial gains in recent months, traffic levels for all dayparts at on-premises remain well-below pre-pandemic levels.
"The increased mobility this fall contributed to year-over-year gains at key restaurant dayparts, although visits are not fully back to pre-pandemic levels," says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. "We're in a steady-state for the next several months, perhaps with a bump up or down here and there, but we expect to lag pre-pandemic traffic levels through 2022 slightly."