Q4 Food Index

The holidays brought a much-needed bump to the Home Improvement and Grocery sectors, but were they as exciting for the Food sector as we anticipated? We dug into eleven top restaurant chains to see how they performed in Q4. 

Starbucks Stays Strong

Starbucks and McDonald’s remained the foot traffic leaders this Q4, bringing in 50% of overall visits in this category. The front-runner, Starbucks, accounted for nearly 27% of total visits while McDonald’s accounted for just about 23%. Chick-fil-A came in a distant third, with 12% market share, a testament to the sustained boost the brand has seen, in spite of a rival’s victory in the Chicken Wars.

A Bitter Quarter

Overall, the food sector saw a weaker performance in Q4, with a 3% decrease from the previous quarter. Starbucks, a brand that thrives in the winter months, showed the highest quarter-to-quarter growth with 8%. Panera Bread and Chipotle followed with 4% and 2% growth respectively, while the rest of the group showed quarter-to-quarter decreases in traffic, aligned with the sector’s normal seasonality. Chick-fil-A, unsurprisingly, saw the highest growth when comparing Q4 2019 to Q4 2018, with 18% growth continuing its massive surge. Chipotle also saw a big jump in traffic with 15% growth year-over-year for Q4, further solidifying why the Mexican restaurant is a must-watch in 2020. 

Loyal Eaters 

Starbucks, McDonalds and Chick-fil-A’s strong results don’t end there. McDonalds takes the cake with an average of 2.7 visits per quarter, followed by Starbucks with 2.5 and Chick-fil-A with 2.2. Dunkin’ Donuts comes at a close fourth, with 2.1 visits per quarter, while the rest average at 1.8. It’s critical for these chains to not only attract visits but to attract customers that will keep coming back, and with continuous innovation, McDonald’s and Starbucks are ensuring their customers return for more. 

But who stays the longest? Panera Bread and Starbucks customers show the highest average lengths of stay, 52 minutes and 50 minutes. These are high numbers for the wider QSR sector, considering the average for the group is 41 minutes, showing that these chains are managing to provide an elevated and elongated eating experience for their customers. 


Though the holidays did not give the food sector a significant boost, the leaders managed to stay on top with strong performances. This just goes to show that continuous innovation, from creative menu options to improved restaurant layouts, is key to keeping these restaurants at the top. 

Will Chick-fil-A continue to build on its momentum into 2020? Will Starbucks reach even bigger heights with Q1 initiatives? Stay tuned for more foot traffic coverage at the Placer.ai blog

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