Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a Placer.ai account? Log In

QSR Q4 Recap

by 
Shira Petrack
 on 
January 19, 2022
QSR Q4 Recap

After recovering from Delta’s effects in October, nationwide dining visits promptly fell once more as the Omicron variant gained ground. Yet, it looks like the impact of each successive wave becomes more and more short-lived, because by December 2021 – as the United States continues to battle its fifth COVID wave – dining foot traffic rose once again to near-2019 levels. 

So, how are the dining fluctuations affecting QSR visits? We dove into the data for major burger and chicken fast-food chains to find out. 

Burger Leaders

Despite the COVID-related challenges, McDonald’s remained the undisputed king of QSR in 2021. According to our Brand Dominance Map, McDonald’s led the burger category in every state in December, receiving a 43% share of nationwide visits to major burger chains, followed by Wendy’s with 12% and Burger King with 10% of nationwide burger visits.  

McDonald’s has also succeeded in weathering the fourth and fifth COVID waves with relatively little damage. For the past six months, the brand’s visits have remained on-par with 2019 numbers, with August, October, and December even seeing Yo2Y visit growths of 2.1%, 3.8%, and 1.1%, respectively. 

Wendy’s offline visits look almost equally as strong – despite a relatively rough August and September. The Ohio-based brand succeeded in nearly closing its Yo2Y visit gap in October and November before capping off the year with a 3.8% Yo2Y increase in foot traffic in December. And Burger King, which closed over 300 locations in 2020, still managed to slash its Yo2Y visit gap by more than half over the past four months, from 15.8% in September to 6.8% in December – indicating the potential for a strong visit§ comeback in 2022. 

Rising Stars

While legacy chains are focusing on holding on to what they have, certain QSR rising stars are forging ahead. Despite the general dining downturn, visits to Sonic Drive-In, Whataburger, Shake Shack, White Castle, and In-N-Out increased by 33.8%, 17.0%, 15.1%, 10.0%, and 20.7% compared to 2019. These are impressive Yo2Y growth numbers under any circumstances, and all the more so when the past two years have been under the shadow of a global pandemic. 

And these rising stars are not resting on their laurels. Sonic Drive-in has been opening new locations and stepping out of its comfort zone and into the CPG space with its recently launched hard seltzer product line. Whataburger is also expanding. Shake Shack, which recently announced a Q4 increase in same-store sales, has been expanding nationally and internationally while adding new items to keep its menu current. In-N-Out is also testing a possible international expansion while – you guessed it – adding new US locations

And White Castle, in a move out of Starbucks’ marketing playbook of releasing time-sensitive products to draw customers in during slower times, recently announced new menu items available only for the next month.

The Chicken Space 

As of the end of 2021, Chick-Fil-A is still the dominant chicken QSR brand, taking 40% of all nationwide chicken QSR visits in December. Although the company that put the fried chicken sandwich on the map saw a Yo2Y decline in foot traffic in August through November, visits were almost back to 2019 levels by December 2021 – positioning the Georgia-based brand for a strong 2022. KFC has seen its Yo2Y foot traffic drop, likely due to permanent store closures and the company’s decision to focus on drive-thrus, but its May 2021 announcement of intent to triple its global store count shows that the fall in US foot traffic is not necessarily a reflection of the company’s overall health.  

Popeyes, which was doing quite well earlier this year with October visits up 27.9% Yo2Y, took a massive hit in November from which it has yet to fully recover – and the reason seems quite unrelated to COVID. In the fall of 2019, Popeyes relaunched its chicken sandwich after having run out in August, causing a massive surge in foot traffic. Visits the first full week of 2019 rose 242% compared to the first full week of October ‘19, and stayed strong throughout the season. So while this year’s November-December numbers look weak, the drop should actually be attributed to the brand’s exceptional success two years ago rather than to any real drop in demand now.

Will McDonald’s hold on to its dominance in 2022? Will the rising burger stars continue to rise? 
Visit Placer.ai to find out. 

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Placer.ai Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Winning Dining Strategies for 2023
In-N-Out Burger: What to Expect as the Brand Moves East
Location Intelligence Breakdown: Coffee Caps-Off 2022
Digitally Native Brands Lean Into Brick & Mortar
Washington, D.C. Population Changes & Migration Trends
A Location Intelligence Perspective on Macy’s Rightsizing
Amazon-Powered Shopping: The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Grocery?
Cold Weather, Hot Visits: Diving into Winter Resorts
Wawa and 7-Eleven: Leaning Into the “Slurpee Effect”
2022 and Beyond: Catching Up With McDonald’s & Chipotle
Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In
Placer.ai’s Q4 2022 Quarterly Index
Placer.ai Adds Industry Executives to Leadership Team To Drive Company's Next Phase of Growth
5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution
Grocery Update: Zooming in on the Lone Star State
2022 Office Recap: The Year of the TGIF Work Week
What Lies Ahead for Brick-and-Mortar Luxury in 2023
Placer.ai Mall Indexes: December 2022 Recap
Looking Back on 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
Post-Pandemic Migration Trends in New York
Top Retailers for 2023
The Live Sports Advertising Opportunity
Domestic Migration to the Mountain States: Small Shifts with Big Implications
New Year, New Food: 5 Dining Trends For 2023
Announcing Placer.ai’s COVID RECOVERY DASHBOARD
This is Why Shop-in-Shops Are Everywhere
Super Saturday 2022 Recap
The San Francisco Shift
Grocery Year-End Update: Publix in the Spotlight
Three Ways Retailers Can Think Small to Increase Store Impact
Offline Beauty Is on an Upswing
The Evolving Migration Patterns of New York’s Florida Snowbirds
Placer.ai Office Index: November 2022 Recap
How Viral Social Media Trends Can Drive Offline Engagement
Are You Ready for Some Football? Experiential Marketing Shows Promise
Mall and Shopping Center Trends For 2023
Retail Corridors and Indoor Malls: A Holiday Head-to-Head
Placer Bytes: Nike, lululemon, and GameStop Update
Placer.ai Mall Indexes: November 2022 Update
Black Friday 2022: Consumers Hear the Call
Digitally Native Brands: Taking Off, Offline
Discount and Dollar Stores Leading the Pack
Turkey Wednesday 2022
Retail’s Evolving Holiday Season
Placer Bytes: Starbucks and Department Stores Ahead of Black Friday
Ulta: A Force to be Reckoned With
College Towns Drive Dining Growth
Foot Traffic Trends Reveal Consumers Ready for Holiday Cheer
How Retailers Can Win Big By Going Small
How Are Consumers Feeling Ahead of Black Friday 2022?
Off-Price, Hibbett, and Dick’s Pre-Holiday Check-in
Ho, Ho, Wholesale: Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s
October 2022’s Retail Rebound
Target and Walmart Ahead of the Holidays
Home Improvement: Leave it to the Pros
Despite Inflation, Holiday Season is Off to a Good Start
Placer.ai Office Index: October 2022 Recap
Placer.ai Mall Indexes- October 2022 Update
Americans Double Down on Fitness
The State of Grocery
CVS and Walgreens: The Wave Continues
Coffee Chains Brewing Up Visits
Placer.ai Spotlight: Pizza Players
What Drove COVID-Era Urban Migration Trends?
Kroger and Albertsons: A Merging of Strengths
Texas Roadhouse Innovations Dishing Up Success
Holidays on the Horizon: Mid-Range and Luxury Shopping
McDonald's and Chipotle's Post-Pandemic Success
Announcing Placer.ai’s Q3 2022 Quarterly Index
5 Hot Restaurant Brands for 2023
Target Finds a Winning Deals Day Formula
Five Trends to Watch for 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
September 2022 Analysis: A Difficult Month and Time for Optimism
Inflation’s Retail Winners
Five Apparel Retailers to Watch Ahead of the Holidays
Placer.ai Spotlight: Wawa’s QSR Pivot
Placer.ai Mall Indexes: September 2022 Recap
Placer.ai Office Indexes: September 2022 Recap
The Impact of Population Growth on Commercial Real Estate 
Starbucks' New Makeover
There's Somethin' About Pumpkin
Expanding Offline Reach
Breakfast Restaurants are Rising in Popularity
The Power of Labor Day 2022
Tourism in Miami Heating Up
Citi Trends on the Rise
Reaching Rural Consumers Through Retail Media Network
Darden Restaurants Cooking Up Success
The Home Improvement Sector: A Sign of Consumer Confidence
QSR Is Having a Northeastern Growth Spurt
Domestic Migration’s Ripple Effects
A Look Back at Back To School 2022
Kroger Digital Tell-All
The Return of In-Person Networking
The Reinvention of the American Mall  
Placer.ai Office Building Indexes: August 2022 Recap 
Placer.ai Mall Indexes - August 2022 Recap
Five Below’s Back to School Success
Plus-Size Fashion’s Staying Power
Placer Bytes: Best Buy & GameStop