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2022: Q1 Quarterly Index
Two years into COVID, full-service restaurants are still feeling the impact – and the Omicron wave and current economic challenges are not helping the recovery. The Yo3Y visit gap widened in Q1 2022 relative to last quarter, and YoY visit growth has also slowed down. These numbers will likely improve in Q2 as the weather warms up and outdoor dining becomes more attractive.
Analyzing dozens of brands including:
Average Visits Per Venue
The Yo3Y visit gap on a visit per venue basis was around half the size of the overall visit gap, which means that the permanent closure of numerous dining establishments over the pandemic is contributing to the foot traffic declines. On the one hand, this means that the restaurants that are still in operation are doing better than the overall traffic numbers may show. On the other hand, the fact that the visits per venue metrics still show a substantial visit gap means that many patrons are still not quite comfortable dining indoors just yet.
Weekly Visits - YoY and Yo3Y Comparison
The Yo3Y weekly restaurant visit gap narrowed somewhat towards the end of Q1 2022 even dropping below 10% some weeks compared to the consistent double-digits visit gaps of January and early February. This could indicate that the resurgence of COVID in early 2022 rather than the current economic challenges inhibited the sector from making a full recovery. As outdoor seating becomes more available over the coming months, visit numbers may well continue to rise despite the wider downturn.
Median Visit Length
After three quarters in a row of restaurant visits growing longer relative to the previous year, visit length for full service restaurants stabilized in Q1, and the median visit length didn’t change significantly relative to either last year or last quarter. This could mean that, while many consumers are still taking COVID and into account when deciding whether or not to go out to eat in the first place, they are no longer intentionally shortening their visits once they’re in the restaurant.
Restaurant Growth Leaders
Amidst the overall dining downturn, some restaurant chains still managed to increase their foot traffic significantly. Mission BBQ, Texas Roadhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, and Yard House have all seen Yo3Y visit growth for each of the past four quarters. Most of these concepts are slightly higher-end relative to most nationwide dining chains, and their success may speak to consumers’ current restaurant preferences. After almost two years of reduced dining activity, many may prefer restaurants that invest in the experience and ambiance along with the food.
Full service restaurants suffered a heavy blow over the past two years, as lingering restrictions and periodic COVID waves slowed down recovery. But despite the COVID contraction, some brands are still doing quite well – which shows that, even in the current environment, the right dining concept can still draw crowds.
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