COVID-19 Impact Report July 24, 2020

Coronavirus cases are still rising, and while restaurants are opening, customers continue to opt for limited-contact channels.

We will continue to help our clients navigate this ever-changing environment with restaurant data and consumer insights that allow them to make the best decisions for their brand. To help guide our clients this week, we have collected the following information for your consideration as of Friday, July 24th:

Overview

Despite COVID-19 cases still being on the rise globally, data for the week ending July 12, 2020, shows restaurant trends in most areas of the world staying relatively stable or even showing some slight improvements. The US continues to show YOY traffic declines between negative 10% and 15%. Asia and the Middle East/Africa both showed a slight improvement with YOY traffic now trending between negative 20% to 25% in both regions. Europe continues to lag; however, it showed its first increase in a while with YOY traffic increasing to the negative 30% to 35% range.

For the US

QSR v. TSR

QSR traffic overall remained at negative 10% to 15% YOY, while sales continued to be flat to positive 0% to 5% YOY.

  • Drive-thru continues to outperform all other QSR sales channels, with YOY traffic continuing to trend 15% to 20% YOY and sales 35% to 40% YOY.
  • Dine-in continued to drop slightly further, likely due to more dining rooms closing again given the influx of new COVID cases in recent weeks. Traffic and sales both continue within the range of negative 65% to 70%.

TSR continues to lag behind QSR; however, we see a slight recovery compared to the holiday weekend, putting TSR performance slightly below what we were seeing two weeks ago. YOY traffic and sales both are between negative 30% and 35%.

  • Delivery and to-go meals increased to the pre-holiday figures, while dine-in did not recover quite as well. Delivery and to-go are still showing significant growth compared to the prior year of around 100%
  • Dine-in traffic and sales increased to slightly below what we saw prior to the holiday. YOY traffic and sales figures both show from negative 50% to 55%.

Regional / Category

  • Mountain, East South Central and West North Central performed best this week with sales ranging from 0% to positive 5% and traffic between negative 5% and 15%.
  • West South Central dropped the most with traffic from negative 10% to 15% and sales between negative 5% and 0%.
  • Coastal divisions (New England, Middle Atlantic, Pacific and South Atlantic) continue to be most negatively impacted, with YOY traffic having declined to 10% to 15% YOY and sales to negative 5% to positive 5%.

For Europe

YOY trends saw a rebound this week with traffic increasing by 5ppt to negative 30% to 35% and YOY sales trending at negative 10% to 15% YOY. This comes despite foreign demand generated by tourists still being subdued, a significant number of independent restaurants still being closed and residents continuing to work from home.

For Asia

YOY overall traffic row slightly moving them between negative 20% to 25%.  YOY sales have also slightly improved to negative 25% to 30%. Dine-in options (or “lobbies” as this service is called in Asia) are now available again in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore.

For Middle East/Africa

This week continues a four-week positive momentum for the Middle East/Africa region. YOY traffic ended between negative 20% to 25% and sales between 0% and negative 5%.

Outlook

Further Automation on the Horizon

With labor costs and availability being a challenge, and consumers’ heightened appetite for “contactless” experiences, technology and automation are gaining more and more interest across the industry. According to our consumer survey insights, both Family and Single Households are mostly concerned about contamination, safety and sanitation practices, and cleanliness when visiting restaurants, so it makes sense for restaurants to focus on solutions that address those concerns.

This week, we explored how QR codes, previously a somewhat forgotten technology, are coming back to save the day and ease some of these concerns. Kiosks are also enthusiastically discussed, together with innovative options that automate processes in the kitchen.

Continued In-House Delivery & Consolidated Future

By now we all know that takeout and delivery options are going to remain popular with customers as long as a vaccine has not been deployed. This realization is leading more and more concepts to explore the option of bringing the delivery service “in-house.” Not only could this improve the bottom line for those brands, but it could also open the door for well-established brands to partner in the future with strong, emerging concepts that lack this capacity. Investing in an in-house system now could provide bigger brands with a multitude of options and growth opportunities down the line.

Pricing Activity

Blow to ‘Service-Included’ Pricepoint Experiment

“Service-included prices” have been tested by several operators over the past years in an effort to cover higher pay and benefits for servers and create a more equitable system in which back-of-the-house staff could be compensated similarly to front-of-the-house staff. The Union Hospitality Group famously tried this approach but ended its experiment this week; still, the pricing strategy may be an option in this challenging environment.

Continued Debate on Potential COVID-19 Surcharges

With significantly higher operating costs and less money coming in, maintaining the status quo is not sustainable for many operators. As a result, some have introduced a flat COVID-19 charge. While some of the public reaction on social media has been negative, our recent US consumer survey revealed that eight out of 10 respondents anticipate price increases as a result of COVID-19.

Often, the success of introducing a charge like this comes down to choosing the right communication. In fact, such changes could be in the consumer’s favor. Surcharges could enable restaurants to take smaller price increments on menu items. Once the situation has “normalized,” restaurants could easily discontinue the surcharge.

Industry Strategy

Plant-Based Proteins Continue to Feature More and More on Menus

Plant-based protein additions continue to be seen as a way to promote health and wellness and potentially add premium pricing opportunities. Chicken, in particular, has been a very successful product during the pandemic. Now brands are looking into further market tests, offering options such as “Beyond Meat” and “Impossible Brands” as chicken alternatives to increase menu diversity and guest appeal.

Limited Menus Are Here to Stay For Now

More “menu simplification” news trended this week, with brands aiming to ensure an easy and fast ordering experience for guests and team members.

Leveraging Loyalty

With guest traffic down, more brands have introduced loyalty programs and are finding innovative ways to expand reach and eliminate restrictions that may keep guests from coming back or signing up. In a recent Paytronix webinar, Kiera Blessing shared that “guests that are enrolled in loyalty programs continued visiting restaurants at a much higher rate than non-loyalty members during COVID-19.”

We realize these are stressful and unprecedented times. RMS is here for you. Reach out to us today if you are looking for practical recovery strategies designed to optimize menu profitability, sales and financial profitability that can be implemented by operators immediately.