Placer Bytes: Salad Wars and Ice Cream’s Sweet Recovery

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In this Placer Bytes, we analyze the post-pandemic performance of Baskin-Robbins and other leading ice cream chains and check out the other side of the food spectrum to assess the salad recovery.

Salad’s Choppy Recovery 

All the salad chains analyzed appear to be recovering, although some are recovering faster than others. Tender Greens, which suffered the biggest decrease in visits over the pandemic, has slashed its visit gap relative to 2019 from -71.5% in January to -31.5% in June – but the brand still has a way to go before hitting 2019 visit levels. Saladworks’ recovery has also been choppy, with 15.1% decrease in June visits compared to June 2019. 

Honeygrow, which specialized in stir-fry in addition to fresh salads, has experienced the fastest recovery. The Philadelphia-based chain displayed an increase in visits relative to 2019 levels already in March, and has been exhibiting a positive year-over-two-year growth in visits every month since. But in June, Chop’t’s visit growth surpassed Honegrow’s, with Chop’t posting a remarkable 11.2% increase in visits relative to June 2019 compared to Honeygrow’s (also notable) 9.5% increase. 

And Sweetgreen, which announced in June that it had filed for an IPO has slowly and steadily been making its comeback. In June, the company had its first month of post-pandemic year-over-two-year growth in visits, with a 3.2% increase in visits relative to June 2019.  

We All Scream for Ice Cream 

On the opposite end of the food spectrum, ice cream chains have also made a surprisingly swift recovery since the country began opening back up in March. Braum’s Ice Cream & Dairy Stores, which operates stores exclusively within a 300-mile radius of Tuttle, Oklahoma, has been experiencing the most impressive recovery with a double-digit increase in monthly visits relative to 2019 every month since March. Baskin-Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, and Carvel Ice Cream have also fully recovered, with an increase in year-over-two-year visits in May and June. 

Dairy Queen and Friendly’s Ice Cream, two brands that offer hot savory deli fare in addition to their frozen treats, seem to be lagging behind – although Dairy Queen did experience a growth in visits April and seems to have recovered its 2019 foot traffic, even if it’s not growing as fast as the other brands. 

That leaves Friendly’s, the only ice cream brand that is truly struggling to recover. The ice cream and diner chain had been already struggling before COVID, with more than twenty store closures in 2019 – which explains part of the dramatic drop in overall visits to the chain when compared to two years ago. And in November 2020, the Massachusetts-based company declared bankruptcy – so its difficult recovery could be more indicative of Friendly’s specific positioning and less reflective of the ice cream parlor category as a whole. 

Will ice cream parlors continue their strong run? Will Friendly’s make a comeback? 

Visit placer.ai to find out. 

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