U.S. restaurant chain transactions showed improvement for the second week in a row in the week ending April 26 with total industry customer transactions down 32 percent compared to a 36 percent decline the prior week, reports The NPD Group. Transactions at quick service restaurants were down 30 percent in week ending April 26 versus year ago, and full service restaurants improved slightly this week, declining 71 percent versus a 72 percent decline last week, according to CREST Performance Alerts, which provides a rapid weekly view of chain-specific transactions and share trends for 70 quick service, fast casual, midscale, and casual dining chains.

“Government relief payments and overall improvement in consumer spending most likely contributed to the easing of transaction declines,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Looking to next week, we might anticipate the upward trend continuing as restaurants begin to reopen their dining rooms.”

Georgia’s 20,000 restaurants were allowed to reopen on April 27.  From May 1-3 several other states followed suit, most notably Texas with almost 60,000 restaurants.  Over the next two weeks there are over 300,000 restaurants that may potentially reopen for on-premise dining.  These openings will improve industry volume but won’t return it to full capacity. In Texas, for example, reopening comes with strict social distancing guidelines, and dining rooms may not exceed 25 percent of their standard occupancy.

“As states and localities reopen, many restaurants are ready to open on the first day, while others need more time to prepare. Still unknown is the number of restaurants that may never reopen,” says Portalatin.  “Other considerations are that many consumers may be cautious about returning to dining rooms; and a significant percentage of the population would remain in quarantine even if restrictions were lifted.”

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