With nearly 320,000 restaurant units in the U.S. now allowed to offer some level of on-premise dining, customer transaction declines at major restaurant chains continued to improve in the week ending May 24, reports The NPD Group. Total major restaurant chain transactions declined by 18 percent in the week compared to same week year ago, a 25 point gain from the steepest decline during the COVID-19 pandemic of negative 43 percent in week ending April 12,  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.

Major full service chain restaurant transactions declined by 49 percent versus same time year ago, a 9 point improvement from the prior week’s decline of 58 percent from year ago. Transactions at quick service restaurant chains were down 17 percent in week ending May 24 compared to same week year ago, improving from the 20 percent decline in the prior week

NPD’s CREST foodservice market research, which daily tracks all aspects of how U.S. consumers use restaurants, shows that total industry traffic at chain and independent restaurants was down 35 percent in April compared to year ago, which aligns with NPD’s weekly restaurant chain transactions tracking. Drive-thru, primarily at quick service restaurants, accounted for almost half of all restaurant occasions (46 percent), while digital orders grew by 106 percent in April compared to year ago and now accounts for 20 percent of all restaurant occasions.

“Among the most interesting behaviors we’re seeing is the rapid escalation of using technology to engage with restaurants,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Going forward, we might expect a digital divide that sets apart restaurants with well- executed digital offerings and requires those without to turn to the newfound prowess of third-party platforms.”

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