The latest research from Mintel shows that after several years of growth, the foodservice industry is expected to decline by up to 30% from 2019 to 2020, following nationwide dine-in bans/restrictions, restaurant closures, job losses, and lowered consumer confidence. Looking ahead, though, Mintel predicts total market sales to rebound to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, with limited-service restaurants (LSRs), including fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, bouncing back more quickly and representing a notably larger share of the market.

While sales declines will be felt across both LSRs and full-service restaurants (FSRs), most of these declines will be driven by the FSR segment, which has been hit the hardest by pandemic-related closures and restrictions. During 2020, FSRs are predicted to see a 39%–42% decline, while LSRs are expected to decline 13%–18%.

“Dine-in restrictions will shift the focus to off-premise options in the short- and medium-term (end of 2020),” said Amanda Topper, associate director, foodservice at Mintel, in a press release. “During the short term, drive-thru, takeout, and delivery options will help mitigate sales declines. In the long term (1–2 years from now), continued investments in off-premise dining will help operators recoup sales, but foodservice will continue to be challenged in a recession as consumers cut back on discretionary purchases.”

According to Mintel, two in five consumers (40%) are looking forward to going to a restaurant once social distancing measures are relaxed; however, there is still concern about doing so. Consumers will demand operators continue to take safety and sanitation seriously, as 42% of diners want to hear about food safety and sanitation from restaurants. Meanwhile, value will be top of mind for thrifty diners as 68% of U.S. diners say that they are constantly searching for good restaurant deals.

Even before the pandemic, a sizable percentage (22%) of consumers were interested in ghost restaurants—restaurants without a physical dine-in location—and now these concepts have even greater relevance. Curbside pickup and walk-up windows are also well positioned to alleviate food safety and contamination concerns. Almost four in 10 fast-food diners (37%) are interested in walk-up windows at fast-food restaurants and over a quarter (27%) of fast-food diners are interested in a secure pickup cubby for their food (where they type a code, grab food, and go).

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