The US foodservice industry continues to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but still has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

According to The NPD Group, the key to the industry’s recovery will be the strength of each daypart – morning meal, lunch, dinner and PM Snack. Each will recover differently depending on the new rhythms of home, school and work-life.

“Across dayparts, the motivations for visiting restaurants are evolving, necessitating a refocus on how restaurant operators target consumers,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Quality, value and innovation will always be relevant to the consumer, but we also need to recognize that in many ways the world has fundamentally changed.”

Breakfast and AM Snack periods were down -5% in May 2021 compared to May 2020, and down -11% compared to the same month two years ago. Recovery will depend on consumers returning to workplaces and schools. The lunch period was down -4% this May compared to a year ago and -10% compared to two years ago, and will depend on the return to offices and workplaces and more midday activities, like shopping. Dinner was down -5% in May 2021 from a year ago and -12% from two years ago. The ability for establishments to operate at total capacity, consumer comfort with dining in and more business and recreational travel will factor into its recovery.

PM Snack is the only daypart that has increased visits over the past year. Visits were up this May +8% compared to May 2019 and up +3% compared to two years ago.