The restaurant industry in the United States continues to recover from last year’s sharp declines, although it has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The total number of online and physical visits to restaurants increased 5% in the year ending September compared to the same period last year, and decreased 6% compared to September 2019. While restaurant visits continue to improve overall, in-store or on-site traffic continues to struggle from pre-pandemic levels, according to The NPD Group.
Restaurant visits to restaurants were down 48% in the 12 months ending September 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in the year ending September 2019, according to a press release on the research. Off-premises orders, such as takeout, drive-thru and delivery, were up 20% from two years ago in September. a year ago, and off-premises grew 10% over the period, according to NPD’s Daily Tracker of the U.S. Restaurant Industry.
Full-service restaurants, which rely heavily on dine-in customers, have suffered the most of any restaurant segment during the pandemic. Visits to FSRs in the year ending September 2021 increased 7% from a 23% decline a year ago. FSR traffic in September was 17% below the pre-pandemic level based on the 12 months ending September 2019. site. . For the year ending September 2021, restaurant visits accounted for 56% of FSR traffic, and off-premises visits accounted for 44% of orders or visits.
Quick-service restaurants aren’t as reliant on restaurant visits as FSRs, and most, especially chains, already had well-developed off-site operations when the pandemic began. However, QSRs also lost restaurant visits. Prior to the pandemic, restaurant visits accounted for 28% of total QSR visits, and in the year ending September 2021, restaurant visits accounted for 14% of traffic share. On-site visits to QSRs are 52% below pre-pandemic levels and off-site visits are 16% above pre-pandemic levels. Visits to QSRs increased 4% overall in the year ending September 2021 compared to a year ago, down 4% compared to the same period ending September 2019 .
“The real headwind for the American restaurant industry remains on-site opportunities,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry adviser and author of Eating Patterns in America, said in the release. “Industry labor issues and consumer reluctance to dine in could keep restaurants, especially FSRs, at limited capacity and simplified menus for the near future.”