Industry Trends April 2021

RMS remains committed to providing our industry with insights that will guide us into and through “new,” “next” and better.

US Restaurant Trends

Over the past year, we’ve looked at year-over-year data. However, beginning on March 22, 2020, the restaurant industry began to experience the heavy impacts of the early COVID-19 shutdowns. Due to the stark differences between March 2021 and March 2020, this Impact Report will compare trends from 2021 to 2019.

By looking back to 2019, we are able to assess the level to which Quick-Service restaurants (QSR) and Table Service restaurants (TSR) have recovered as restrictions have been lifted, and the percentage of vaccinated adults increases on a daily basis.

QSR vs. TSR Sales Trends 2021 vs. 2019

  • 2021 QSR sales for Q1 on average are up 4% compared to the same period in 2019, and stood at 5% by the end of March 2021.
  • TSR trends for Q1 2021 were down 16% compared to 2 years ago, but have been making a slow recovery since the start of the year, ending March 2021 at -10%.

A note on consumer outlook: TSR sales continue to lag, yet in our most recent consumer survey, 70% of respondents believe that vaccinations will speed up the recovery of the dine-in segment, and when asked about eating out at restaurants post-pandemic, an encouraging 32% of respondents said they plan on eating out more compared to only 13% in August 2020. This will likely buoy TSR, while putting pressure on QSR brands to keep their menus interesting in order to sustain traffic numbers.

QSR vs. TSR Transaction Trends 2021 vs. 2019

  • 2021 QSR transactions for Q1 on average are down 12% compared to the same period in 2019, and stood at -11% by the end of March 2021.
  • TSR trends for Q1 2021 were down 17% compared to 2 years ago, but has been making a slow recovery since the middle of February, ending March 2021 at -14%.


Guest-centric and brand-supporting pricing strategies are our specialty. Contact us today to create a plan that is tailored to your business.

Consultant’s Corner

How the stimulus package will impact your sales: a nuanced approach

The stimulus package boosted sales as much as 3% to 12%. Can this bump be sustained? Will a more stable political environment boost consumer confidence? At RMS, our analysts spend their days getting to the bottom of important questions like these, using proprietary methods to analyze and model data from a range of sources. Read more from RMS’ Dr. Joel Davis on how answers can help restaurant operators predict performance and evaluate pricing opportunities.

Restaurants Return: A Slow Road to Recovery

Restaurants that have navigated shutdowns, restrictions and rapidly changing consumer demands must now prepare for another unexpected reality: pandemic-related buyer behaviors may be here to stay. Take a look at key takeaways from our latest consumer report and what this means for operators.

RMS stands ready to support restaurant brands through these ever-changing times. Reach out to us today for practical strategies designed to optimize menu profitability, sales and financial profitability immediately.

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