Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

QSR Recap

Shira Petrack
November 23, 2021
QSR Recap

Nationwide dining visits fell dramatically following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic and remained low throughout the beginning of 2021. But dining visits have been slowly and sporadically climbing back up, with October dining visits almost back to 2019 levels. In the context of the nationwide dining recovery, we dove into foot traffic patterns at some of the QSR visit leaders.  

Mixed Performance Within the QSR Sector

Many of the burger and chicken QSR leaders saw their visits drop dramatically over the pandemic. As late as June, year-over-two-year visits were still significantly lower than they had been in June 2019 for many popular fast food brands. But as COVID cases continue to decline, three types of recovery paths are emerging. 

The first category includes brands who managed to thrive over the pandemic, such as In-N-Out, Shake Shack, White Castle, Portillo’s, and Popeyes. Year-over-two-year visits to the chicken and biscuits concept were up by double-digits for much of the year, with October visits exceeding 2019 visits by 25.9%. Much of this was driven by expansion, or in the case of Popeyes, the long term boost from the Chicken Wars in summer 2019.

The second category consists of brands that saw a clear decrease in offline visits during the pandemic, but that have now succeeded in essentially closing the year-over-two-year visit gap. This category includes Wendy’s and McDonald’s, which saw year-over-two-year visits in October down by 1.9% and up by 3.3%, respectively. 

The third recovery profile involves brands that are still feeling the impact of the COVID-induced drop in in-person dining. This includes brands such as Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and KFC, where October dining visits were still down by 10.1%, 15.3%, and 20.4%, respectively. But it’s important to note that a drop in foot traffic performance does not necessarily mean that the brands themselves are struggling – the increase in delivery orders March 2020 is likely attenuating the impact of the slow return of in-person dining for many of these QSR chains. The same is true for those who succeeded  - while visits may have been impacted by expansion, their overall success was heavily dependent on the strength of their delivery, takeaway and drive thru channels.

Increase in Short Visits Across the Board 

One trend that affected all the QSR brands analyzed – whether they have recovered their pre-pandemic foot traffic or not – is the increase in short visits. The average share of shorter visits out of the total number of visits in August through October 2019 stood at around 50% across the board. In August through October 2021, the share of short visits climbed to around 60% for all the brands analyzed. 

This likely reflects the increase in drive-thru and take-out orders since the start of the pandemic. But it can also mean that diners who are going back to restaurants for the social experience these establishments provide are not visiting these QSR chains with the same expectations as before.

Several Strategies for Success

Turning our focus to the two QSR brands that have already closed their pandemic visit gap shows that even for the high-performing QSR players, visit patterns are not quite back to normal – and there was not a “one size fits all” strategy for QSR brands trying to weather the COVID disruption. 

McDonald’s appears to have closed its visit gap by consolidating its position as lunch and dinner provider. The fast food king’s lunchtime visits share (between the hours of 11 AM and 2 PM) did drop – from 31.9% of total visits in Q3 2019 to 29.1% of total visits in Q3 2021, but this was a much smaller drop than that experienced by Wendy’s, where the share of visits between 11 AM and 2 PM out of total daily visits fell from 40.5% to 35.1%. Critically, the decrease in lunch time visits was seen across the leading fast-food brands, and so McDonald’s relatively small drop in lunch visits indicates that the QSR king has remained the dominant QSR brand in the United States.

Wendy’s, meanwhile, appears to have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to carve out a new niche for itself as a breakfast leader. Like McDonald’s – and like most other QSR players – its share of lunchtime visits fell while the share of late afternoon and evening visits increased. But the dramatic jump was in morning visits, which increased from 3.6% in Q3 2019 to 5.3% in Q3 2021. This is all the more impressive given that the brand was essentially a non-player in the breakfast space pre-pandemic. 

As the pandemic upheaved the dining industry, itt seems that Wendy’s decided to take what had previously been an area of weakness and work on turning it into a new strength, rather than to just keep on doing what it had been doing pre-pandemic and hope for the best. As of now, it certainly looks like the gamble paid off. 

Will Wendy’s morning visits continue to rise? Will Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and KFC close their visit gap? 

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.
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
The Enduring Demand for Urban and Suburban Retail