Total customer transactions at major U.S. restaurant chains declined by 14% in the week ending July 12 versus one year ago, compared with -11% in the prior week, reported The NPD Group. Quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains drove the decline, decelerating four points to -13% year over year, while full-service restaurant (FSR) chains improved declines by three points to -26% year over year. These numbers are evidence of a reversal from the previous week when FSRs drove the declines and QSRs fueled the improvement in declines, according to NPD’s CREST Performance Alerts.

“Last week when quick-service restaurants drove the improvements in restaurant customer transaction declines, I highlighted the apparent divergence in trend between quick-service and full-service restaurants, supported by sound reasoning about on-premises and off-premises models, the pace of reopening and reclosing, and the resurgence in COVID-19 cases around the country,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “The flip in declines this week from quick-service restaurants to full-service restaurants is a reminder that the world is unpredictable today and we should expect twists and turns on the bumpy road to recovery. Still, the pre-COVID trend that favored quick-service restaurants and the segment’s expertise in offering off-premises services, like drive-thru and delivery, has accelerated during the pandemic and will continue to do so in the long-term.”

The estimated percentage of U.S. restaurants that are permitted to have on-premises dining in the week ending July 12 declined to 82% from 90% in the prior week, according to NPD’s restaurant census ReCount. Most of the change was in California. In the week ending July 12, most California restaurants were once again off-premises only. As a result, California’s FSR transactions declined six points to -51% versus one year ago, the lowest percentage of any state. In the week ending July 19, FSR volume in California will be completely off premises, which will lead to restaurants in the state ramping up delivery programs, streamlining menus, and repurposing parking lots as temporary drive-thru lanes. As the state with the nation’s largest number of restaurants, this will certainly contribute to the reshaping of restaurant operations in the new normal.

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