Customer transactions at major U.S. restaurant chains declined by 21 percent in the week ending May 17 compared to same period last year, a slight gain from last week’s 23 percent decline and the fifth consecutive week of improvement, reports The NPD Group. Major quick service chain restaurants, which represent the majority of restaurant transactions, improved transaction declines to -20 percent in the week compared to a 21 percent decline in the prior week from year ago, 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.
Continued improvement in restaurant chain transaction declines was aided by adding 93,000 restaurant units* in states where restrictions to on-premise dining were lifted from the week ending May 10 to the week ending May 17. These openings are more critical for full service restaurants, which are more dependent on diners eating on-premise. Major full service chain restaurant transaction declines improved by 9 points in the week ending May 17, down 49 percent versus year ago compared to a 58 percent decline prior week from year ago. The effect of restaurant openings is readily apparent when comparing states with and without restrictions. Full service restaurants in states where on-premise dining was permitted to reopen as of May 10 improved 13 percentage points in the week ending May 17, down 33 percent versus year ago compared to -46 percent in the prior week from year ago. Full service restaurants in open states have a 22 percentage point performance advantage over the remainder of the country.
“The reopening of restaurant dine-in services across the country will certainly continue to help drive improvements, but it’s important to keep in mind that restaurant on-premise dining operations are not serving to full capacity because of safety protocols,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Equally important to the industry’s recovery is the consumer’s comfort level with dining in at a restaurant now.”