Desire to dine-in is high.
More than any activity — with the exception of visiting family and friends — consumers miss going out to restaurants. During the week ended April 24, 67% of consumers surveyed by The NPD Group said they missed going out to lunch, dinner or drinks most.
“It speaks to the pent-up demand for dining on-premise,” said David Portalatin, NPD’s national food and beverage analyst.
Consumer outlook is improving.
The week ended May 31 marked the seventh consecutive week of improved restaurant transactions, NPD found. Full-service restaurants got the biggest bump, increasing 15%, in large part due to the lifting of dine-in restrictions in more states. During the same period, total industry traffic grew just 3%.
“[Consumers’] outlook is definitely improving,” Portalatin said. “You see it in the transaction data.”
Convenience still matters.
Since the on-set of the pandemic, consumers have adopted new habits and accelerated others. The week ended April 24, 39% of consumers said they were making more quick and easy meals, and 17% said they were ordering more take-out and delivery compared to the pre-COVID-19 period. These shifts point to a need for convenience, even when regular patterns are disrupted.
“We still need convenience,” Portalatin said. “The ultimate convenience is a full-service meal.”
Recovery is regional.
Not surprisingly, states that gave the green light for restaurant reopening early on — Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, to name a few — had some of the lowest transaction declines versus year ago for the week ending May 31. Meanwhile, those states that reopened more recently or which have more restrictions, such as California, Washington and New York, experienced the steepest declines.
Restaurants forecast to rise, unless …
As more restaurants reopen at greater capacities, Portalatin expects restaurant transactions, particularly at full-service concepts, to steadily rise. Unless, of course, unemployment benefits go away in July, there’s no further stimulus and unemployment remains high. If that happens, he forecasts economically strained consumers would shift from full-service to quick-service, which would likely begin heavy dealing and discounting.