COVID-19 Impact Report June 12, 2020

We’ve experienced a generation-changing disruption of the Food and Beverage Industry landscape with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout it all, we’ve been supporting our clients to make the best decisions for their brand under these unprecedented circumstances. Now, as countries start to reopen, we are being asked new questions about how to adjust to the ever-changing environment. To help guide our clients this week, we have collected the following information for your consideration as of Friday, June 12th:

Overview

Traffic trends for the US, Asia and Middle East/Africa get “unstuck.” Europe sees declines.

In the US, YOY traffic continues to improve steadily. After remaining “stuck” at negative 15% since May 15, traffic moved up to negative 10% YOY this week. In Asia, we see similar improvements where YOY traffic trends are moving towards negative 20%. The Middle East/Africa has shown vast improvements. YOY traffic improved from negative 40 to 50% to negative 15 to 20% this week. Europe traffic experienced a slight set-back with trends declining again by 5ppts compared to prior weeks, ending the week down 35 to 40% YOY.

For the US: 

Dining Day Parts

Looking at dining day parts overall since the start of the pandemic, ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner’ occasions declined least and ’late dining’ and ‘breakfast’ most, primarily due to work-from-home behavior.

  • Lunch and dinner traffic overall is down YOY by 15-20%, but YOY sales have crossed back into positive YOY figures since mid-April. Sales are leveling at +15% for lunch and +10% for dinner.
  • Breakfast traffic YOY is between negative 30-35%. YOY breakfast sales leveled at around negative 15%.
  • RMS tracks dining categories by: breakfast, burgers, chicken, ethnic and other. Of the five categories, ‘chicken’ concepts have performed the best overall, a pace that continued this week. YOY traffic is between negative 5 to 0% and YOY sales at +20 to +25%.
  • ‘Breakfast’ concepts had the second-best performance by category. YOY traffic is at negative 15% and YOY sales between 0 to +5%.
  • ‘Other’ concepts ranked third, with YOY traffic declines of 20%, while sales are between -5 to 0% YOY.

QSR v. TSR

  • Overall QSR traffic, as noted above, is trending upwards, though still negative YOY. Sales, however, are moving into the neutral category at 0 to +5% YOY, primarily driven by drive-thru traffic, which is seeing YOY traffic up as much as 15% to 20% and sales up 50% to 60% YOY.
  • TSR continues to lag tremendously behind QSR, but this week TSR saw improvements as states continue to lift restrictions on dining out. YOY traffic and sales are at negative 45% to 50%; up from negative 50 to 60% declines in the prior weeks.
  • Delivery and ‘to go’ meals have stabilized within TSR, YOY traffic for these channels trends at +70% to 80% and YOY sales still up +90% to 100%.
  • ‘Dine in’ sales and traffic numbers improved by another 5-10ppt and show a strong positive improvement from the start of May (negative 95% to 100%) to the end of May (negative 70% to 75%).

Regional/Category

  • Mountain, East South Central and West South Central divisions continue to perform best with positive YOY sales between 0-10% and YOY traffic declines of 10 to 15%.
  • Coastal divisions (Pacific, New England, Middle Atlantic) continue to perform the worst with traffic declines of 15 to 20% YOY. Sales are showing positive YOY growth (0 to 5%).

For Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, France and others started to reopen two weeks ago. YOY trends continue to hover, with traffic fixed at negative 35% to 40% and YOY sales at negative 20% to negative 30%.

For Asia: YOY overall traffic remains negative, but is showing continued signs of improvement. This week, we saw declines between 20% to 25% YOY, compared to negative 20-30% last week. Most restaurants can only provide delivery, take-out or drive thru services; dine-in options (or “lobbies” as this service is called in Asia) remain closed.

For Middle East/Africa: The current week is showing vast improvements compared to the most recent weeks, with Ramadan season complete. YOY traffic jumped to negative 15 – 20% and YOY sales in the 0 to +5% positive range. This is compared to the beginning of May, when YOY traffic and sales trends were ranging between negative 70% and 80%.

Outlook

Continued Recovery (but slower)

As covered in our trends section, customers are coming back, albeit slowly with more caution. This is illustrated by recent Sense360 data – on June 10, 51% of survey respondents stated that restaurants in their areas had opened ‘dine in’ options. Yet only 37% had visited the restaurant.

Overall, the public is still cautious in all aspects of public life. According to insights from our in-depth interviews with families around the world we know that risk perception and anxiety are major factors in deciding when families will resume dining out.

This is in line with key findings from our global survey in April, where respondents listed “safety and hygiene” as one of their top food related concerns. While customers pre-COVID where not interested in what happened behind the scenes, restaurants now should not be afraid of showing customers their new safety procedures. For example, Gje Greene-Wallace of Fish City Grill and Half Shells, recently told Nation’s Restaurant News that she has an alarm in the dining room that reminds employees to stop what they’re doing and wash their hands – every 20 minutes.

The Return of Office workers

As restrictions are lifted, some employees are moving back to office life, which will affect restaurants, primarily in urban office areas. Restrictions on eating in the office, to comply with governmental back–to-work guidelines, may further benefit restaurants, as will commuting, which often leads to a stop “on the way” to and from work.

Delivery will continue to be in demand for Families

As mentioned above, families around the globe are more cautious and apprehensive to return dining rooms due to sanitation concerns, yet also have a high demand for food delivery. To go and delivery options give parents more perceived control over healthy/safety/sanitation issues as they can take precautionary measures such as reheating food and wiping down containers and surfaces. We believe this group will have a continued impact on the delivery sector and support Family Meal offerings added to menus.

Pricing Activity

Lift in transactions, balance in “check”

With further restaurant and market re-openings, transactions continue to increase for most operators with a relative steady state as to spend per guest. The balance in spend per Guest will continue to be of interest as there may be some decreases in party sizes, that grew during the COVID crisis with a focus on carryout and delivery, and potential price increases due to market pressures.

Pricing to the Transaction, respecting change in Party Size

With shifts in party size (and potentially different party sizes per revenue center), understanding price effects to unique transactions/guests becomes even more important. As RMS’ Joel Davis explains, we can no longer rely on the tried-and-true consumer value equation, therefore continuous testing and reacting quickly is vital. The importance is to understand the “real effect” of pricing to each check, looking beyond overall price inflation or simple item increases.

Pricing

Value and affordability is a major concern among potential customers, and RMS is discussing the benefit discounting to attract customers. This tactic only works for brands that can afford to stay in business over the medium to long term, because they are emerging from the crisis with strong cash reserves and a lot of liquidity and, thus have a great deal of opportunity.

If your brand is not in this position, we recommend instead to plan and test different traffic drivers and marketing initiatives, such as new LTO’s or new products at a lower price points as an alternative to price reductions.

Brands also should also consider the many ways guests see value. With expected market price inflation, understanding how best to combine “value for money” (did I get what I expected for the price paid through portion sizes and combined item offerings) and value promotions (short term efforts or items that provide a value ladder and various entry points for different guest types) to balance price tactics with market needs.

Industry Strategy

Al Fresco and Outdoor Dining

Due to indoor capacity rules and nicer weather, restaurants have turned their focus on using outside spaces to their maximum potential. In many cases, expanding service to patio and common areas has given restaurants more leeway with changing rules and legislations. Also, some cities continue to dedicate more space to pedestrians as there is less traditional traffic overall (cars and otherwise) giving more potential areas for restaurants/retail to utilize.

Wholesale to your Door

With less demand from restaurants, many direct wholesalers/retailers in the US, Asia and UK have taken to direct consumer marketing in order to maintain in business. This includes traditional “restaurant depots” allowing the general public to purchase from their units and even other meat/fishmongers offering home delivery of “restaurant quality product” to home kitchens. We are following this trend with interest as these outlets are directly competing with grocery stores and may remain good business for restaurants.

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.