Placer Bytes: Chipotle and Yum! Brands

After a brief month of year-over-two-year visit growth in July, nationwide dining visits fell once again below 2019-levels in August, and declined even further in September. To understand how current dining trends were affecting the QSR sector, we dove into in-store visits to Chipotle and Yum! Brands’s portfolio – KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. 

Chipotle’s Offline Comeback 

While Chipotle has been investing heavily in its digital channels, offline traffic has been lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. But the brand has been opening new locations, and revamping its loyalty program, allowing customers to redeem their points more quickly and for a wider selection of rewards. And it looks like the change has been successful in increasing foot traffic.

Monthly visits in June rose above 2019 levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic – and the growth continued in Q3. Chipotle saw a 12.2%, 7.5%, and 2.7% year-over-two-year increase in visits in July, August, and September, respectively.

Increase in Evening Visits 

The most significant increase over the last three months came from an increase in evening visits. The share of evening visits – between 8-11 PM – increased from 14.9% Q3 2019 to 15.9% in Q3 2021. The share of late afternoon visits – between 4-7 PM – also increased, from 36.1% in Q3 2019 to 37.7% in Q3 2021. Morning visits remained relatively steady. 

But the share of lunchtime visits decreased significantly. In 2019, visits between 12-3 PM made up 40.0%, 39.1%, and 40.4% of total Chipotle visits in Q1, Q2, and Q3 of 2019, respectively. This year, however, mid-day visits dropped to 36.9%, 36.8%, and 37.2% in Q1, Q2, and Q3, respectively. As Americans continue returning to the office over the next couple of months, Chipotle lunchtime visits may well get a boost – positioning the chain for even greater success. 

Yum! Brands Offline Recovery 

Like Chipotle, Yum! Brands has been investing in its ecommerce channels – and its leading brands’ have been seeing a steady recovery. Yet, like trends seen across the wider dining space, visits took a step back in September after showing especially strong numbers in July and August. Monthly visits to Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut were down -13.5%, -24.4%, and -29.9%, respectively, when compared to 2019. 

While COVID and other factors are clearly playing a role, the decline in foot traffic can also be attributed to store closures. In August 2020, Pizza Hut announced its plans to close hundreds of locations, while Taco Bell has also permanently shuttered several stores. Though other factors are clearly at play, including changes to professional routines and the limitations in cities, visit metrics are still down more than visits per venue numbers – showing the impact of these closures on overall traffic.

Will Chipotle maintain its year-over-two-year visit growth? Will Yum! Brands’s locations close the visit gap? 

Visit to find out. 

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