It’s probably not much of a shocker to learn that far fewer people are venturing inside quick service restaurants (QSRs) these days. There is, after all, a global pandemic that continues to rage across the U.S. But Yahoo Finance posted a story over the weekend with actual data showing just how precipitous the drop in foot traffic has been for a number of major QSR brands.
According to location intelligence service Gravy Analytics, as of December 8, foot traffic to Burger King, Popeyes, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Domino’s, Papa Johns and Starbucks fell 50 percent compared to February 2020. Furthermore, Gravy Analytics reports that foot traffic to Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dunkin and Chipotle dropped more than 40 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Obviously the key word here is “pandemic,” which forced big changes to restaurants of all sizes here in the U.S. Early on in the pandemic, restaurants in various parts of the country were forced to close dine-in operations entirely. Though many have reopened, most dining rooms still operate under reduced seating capacity and other restrictions as states continue fighting the virus. [I REWROTE THIS GRAF FOR CLARITY]
Given that fewer people could physically stand and sit inside a restaurant, it makes sense to see the kind of drop in foot traffic that Gravy Analytics reported. And as we learn more about COVID, especially how it travels farther and faster inside restaurants than previously thought, these types of limitations are likely to stay in place until the vaccines are widely available. The question now is, even when the vaccine arrives, will people still want to dine in, or equally as important, will QSRs want them to?
In response to the pandemic, QSRs have been aggressively pivoting away from dine in and more towards drive-thrus and delivery. In the back half of this year, McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King have all announced various plans for future store designs to emphasize pickup and drive-thru operations rather than dine in options. At the same time, the rise of delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats means that hungry consumers don’t even need to leave their couch if they want a Big Mac or a Whopper.
With 2020 almost in the rearview mirror (thankfully), and the aforementioned vaccine on its way, hopefully the numbers we see from QSRs and all restaurants will be a lot better.