Restaurant Trends October 2021

US Quick-Service & Full-Service Trends

To support 2022 planning during a continuously changing environment, this month’s report will compare trends from 2021 to 2019. Behaviors of the past are returning — demand for dine-out increased significantly during the summer and workplaces are opening back up.

Thus, a comparison between 2021 and 2019 sales and traffic allows us to assess the performance of Quick-Service restaurants (QSR) and Full-Service restaurants in the new normal.

Quick-Service Trends

  • In September 2021, average check was up 25% compared to the same period in 2019, and sales saw an increase of 8%.
  • Conversely, traffic trends were down 14% when compared to September 2019.

QSR traffic has still not fully recovered to 2019 figures. This may be due to the fact that consumers are mostly sticking to off-premise when ordering from QSRs, as they have been doing for the last 18 months. In addition, some QSR restaurants also have been unable to open their dining rooms due to restrictions and labor shortages, affecting on-premise traffic.

Also of note is average check growth (25%). The reasons are twofold: First, operators are raising prices to manage increasing costs. Second, guests continue to order for larger groups. RMS initially reported the latter in its 2021 trends report.  At the time of the survey (Dec 2020), 1 in 4 respondents said they were placing larger orders compared to pre-COVID. Like many dining behaviors initiated during the stay-at-home orders, ordering for a family or household is now a habit likely to continue.

Full-Service Trends

  • In September 2021, average check increased by 19% and sales trends were up by 2% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Traffic in September 2021 is at -15% compared to September 2019.

While average check has remained somewhat steady at 19% for the past three months, sales saw a jump from August to September. The recovery of full-service traffic is most likely driven by pent-up demand for dine-in and price increases.

While the summer had a positive impact on full-service trends, the delta variant, return to work and school, and cooler weather may slow momentum. This slight decline can be seen in full-service traffic which now sit at -15% when compared to September 2019. Moreover, intent to dine is waning.

In RMS’ latest consumer survey, we asked over 900 respondents how often they expect to dine out in the future. A growing 30% said “less” or “much less” compared to only 19% that plan to eat out “more” or “much more.”

Consultant’s Corner

Combo meal insights you can’t afford to miss

Combo meals have been a notable component of pandemic sales for quick-service restaurants (QSR). They make up 35% of the menu mix across the industry, according to the most recent RMS data. But why do customers choose combo meals as their go-to purchase? RMS’ chief marketing officer, Jana Zschieschang, takes a look at these notable components in QSR Web‘s latest feature.

How can you use data to find the sweet spot in your menu pricing?

Increasing your restaurant menu prices while avoiding sticker shock can be a balancing act. So how do you find the sweet spot? RMS’ COO Mark Kuperman shares 4 tips on what data will help you succeed. For more restaurant insights, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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 health now.

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