Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

QSR Q4 Recap

Shira Petrack
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 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 Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Checking in With Nike and Lululemon
Black Friday 2023 Retail Recap
Starbucks’ 2023 Holiday Menu & Red Cup Day Performance
Turkey Wednesday 2023
Who Attended the 2023 Pickleball Championship? 
Three Surprising Holiday Shopping Trends
What’s in Store for Ulta Beauty This Holiday Season?
Best Buy and Department Stores: A Holiday Deep Dive
Discount & Dollar Stores: Strength Toward The End of the Year
The State of Off-Price Retail: Discounts Seal The Deal
Placer Mall Index Recap: October 2023 Office Index: October 2023 Recap
Retail Corridors Ahead of the 2023 Holiday Season
California, Here Gap Comes
Checking in With Home Improvement
Getting Into the Glasses Game: Warby Parker Takes Over
Fitness Positioned for a Strong 2023 Finish
White Paper Recap: October 2023
Coffee Giants Brewing Up Business
Popeyes and Burger King Lead the Way
Diving into Yum!
Looking Ahead to Black Friday 2023
Blockbusters Drive Movie Theater Comeback
Crocs and Boot Barn: Shoe-Ins for Success
McDonald’s and Chipotle's Winning Recipe
The State Of Steak: Checking in With Texas Roadhouse
Pleasant Pastimes: Pickleball Potential Proves Potent
Who’s Driving Downtown Manhattan’s Weekend Revival?
Diving into Downtown Manhattan Foot Traffic Trends
Rite Aid: Rightsizing Right
Major League Soccer: Its Die-Hard and Casual Fans
The Anchor Recap: September 2023 Office Index: September 2023 Recap
Placer Mall Index Recap: September 2023
September White Paper Recap
The Consumer Habits of College Students
JCPenney: Rightsizing and Revitalizing
Pent-Up Demand Ahead of October Sales Events
4 Strategies Retailers are Using to Drive Traffic to Their Venues
5 Key Regional Grocery Players Impressing in 2023
Upscale Kitchenware Trending Up
Costco Finds More Room for Growth
Four C-Store Chains Making an A-Grade
National Parks + Outdoor Summer Activities
Diving Into Darden: Summer 2023 Update
The Summer Event Effect
Messi: Massive in Miami
Looking Back on Back to School 2023
The Anchor Recap: August 2023 Office Index: August 2023 Recap Mall Index: August 2023 Recap White Paper Recap: August 2023
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Strikes Again
Big Scoop: We All Scream For Ice Cream
Sports Away: Lululemon & Nike’s Momentum Continues
Summer Visits Heat Up For Recreation and Outdoor Gear Chains
No CSS overwrite - July 2023 Office Index Recap
Staging - August 2023 Mall Indec
Mid-Atlantic Grocery Deep Dive
Experiential Chains Heating Up This Summer
Petco Goes Big by Going Small
Ulta Beauty: Leading the Discretionary Pack
Discount and Dollar Chains Continue to Thrive
Summer of Sports: DICK’s Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports
Off-Price: Succeeding Into Summer
The Anchor Recap: July 2023
Superstores Maintaining Pandemic Gains Amidst Economic Headwinds
2023: Home Improvement at the Halfway Point
July 2023 Office Index Recap Mall Index: July 2023 Recap
The Taylor Swift Visit Lift
Southwestern Grocery Dive
July 2023 White Paper Recap: Halfway Point Review & Quarterly Index
Yum! Brands: Driving Dining Visits
Slurpees and Summer Movies Stimulate Consumer Foot Traffic
Cool Beans: Summer Coffee Update
Checking In on Back to School 2023
Crocs and New Balance Tip The Scales
Burger Bliss: Shake Shack and In-N-Out Stacking Visits
Chipotle & McDonald's Continue to Reign Supreme
Vibenomics and Partner to Enhance Retail Media In-Store Measurement
California Grocers Here We Come!
Marriott’s Different Audiences
Bonchon and Kura Sushi Thrive in the Fast-Casual Scene
A Shoe In: Footwear Climbs to the Top
Cheers! Raising a Glass to Beverage Retail Office Index: June 2023 Recap Mall Index June 2023 Recap – A Turn of the Tide and a Dive into Open-Air Lifestyle Centers
Local Kitchens: Redefining the Restaurant
Unlocking Urban Insights: The Value in Manhattan’s Employees
Ohio State Parks On The Rise
How is Inflation Impacting the High-Income Shoppers?
Five Fast-Growing Dining Chains
What To Expect From Prime Day and July Sales Events in 2023
The State Of Fashion: How Are Apparel Retailers Faring in 2023?
2023’s Latest Dining Success Story: GEN Korean BBQ House
The NBA Finals: A Location Intelligence Perspective
Moving the Market: The Impact of Domestic Migration on Housing Costs
Post-Pandemic Museum Update
The Darden-est Things