Lingering tailwinds from government relief payments and the lifting of dine-in restrictions in states like Georgia, Florida, and Texas helped to improve U.S. restaurant chain transaction declines in the week ending May 3, reports The NPD Group. For the week ending May 3 total transactions were down 26 percent from year ago compared to a 32 percent decline the prior week and a decline of 43 percent the week ending April 12, the low point of the COVID-19 disruption, according to CREST Performance Alertswhich provides a rapid weekly view of chain-specific transactions and share trends for 70 quick service, fast casual, midscale, and casual dining chains. 

Restaurant dine-in restrictions have been lifted for nearly 192,000 restaurant units or about 29 percent of all units since May 1, based on an analysis using NPD’s ReCount restaurant census. Keeping in mind that required social distancing limits can reduce dining room capacity by as much as 75 percent in some areas. Using pre-COVID-19 restaurant customer traffic, which NPD continually tracks, the potential value of opened restaurants would have yielded a transaction decline of only 20 percent in the week ending May 3 based upon 100 percent capacity of the opened units. 

“Many restaurant operators have weighed the value of limited operations versus the cost of opening, health risks, or other factors, and chose to remain closed or continue with a takeout-only model,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “The most recent week’s performance suggests we’ve achieved about 30 percent of the potential volume in states where restrictions were lifted. Looking ahead to next week, another 46,000 restaurants could come back online.”

Transactions at quick service restaurant chains were down 24 percent in week ending May 3 versus year ago compared to a 30 percent decline in the previous week. Full-service restaurants also improved, declining 67 percent versus a 71 percent decline in the week ending April 26. 

News, NPD Group