Following ten consecutive months of traffic gains over steep pandemic-related declines, the restaurant industry’s recovery stalled in January. According to the NPD Group, physical and online visits to US restaurants were down 2 percent in January compared to an 8 percent decline in January 2021.
The industry analyst found that a 4 percent increase in consumer spending at restaurants reflects higher food and operational costs, while total restaurant traffic, both online and physical, is down 10 percent from the pre-pandemic level in January 2020.
Online and physical visits to quick service restaurants declined by 3 percent in the month compared to a year ago when visits decreased by 3 percent in January 2021, down 7 percent from January 2020. Full service restaurant traffic increased by 2 percent this January, over a 22 percent decline in January 2021, and was down 21 percent from two years ago, before the pandemic.
Although dine-in traffic increased by 40 percent in January, the jump compares to a 61 percent decline in January 2021. On-premises visits this January were down 46 percent from the pre-pandemic level in January 2020. Off-premises orders, like carry-out, drive-thru and delivery, were down 10 percent in the month compared to a 22 percent increase in January 2021.
“No one ever said the road to recovery would be smooth and steady. Right now, we’re experiencing a dip in the road due to the omicron variant and stimulus money expiring,” says David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry Advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Looking ahead, we should expect volatility. February restaurant numbers will be compared to a rough February last year because of extreme weather. My advice is don’t get too discouraged by January or too elated if February seems great. Just stay the course because we’re on a steady path of gradual improvement.”