Restaurant Trends April 2022

US Quick-Service Trends

  • In March 2022, traffic was down 8.5% compared to the same period in 2021.

The following is a snapshot of US Quick-Service restaurant (QSR) trends for Q1 2022.

For the first quarter of 2022, QSR sales in the US are flat at 0.2% compared to the same quarter last year. In general, QSRs have struggled to regain traffic since the second half of 2021.

Average check is up 6.9% compared to Q1 2021, yet traffic trends in 2022 are still down by 6%. When looking back to 2021, one distinction is essential. From March to May 2021, after months of lockdowns and restrictions, and vaccines becoming more available, we saw a lot of pent-up demand as consumers rushed back to restaurants.

When considering Q1 2022, traffic trends reported in January (-7.7%) were shallow and contributed to overall negative Q1 performance.

Drive-thru performance is tentative, dine-in outlook is improving


Approximately 75% of QSR topline sales comes from this revenue channel. Based on previous RMS analysis, higher gas prices are historically associated with lower drive-thru performance for QSRs, which may be a contributing factor to the recent decrease in traffic.

In our Q1 2022 consumer insights report, when asked, 80% US respondents reported at least one weekly drive-thru visit, down from 86% in Q4 2021. Respondents also said that looking ahead, only 16% of them plan to ordered “more or much more” from a drive-thru versus 23% in Q4 of 2021.


The good news? RMS data shows that other off-premise revenue channels, such as takeout and delivery, contribute positively to traffic results. More noticeably, dine-in is up 2.6% compared to the same quarter last year. With most dining rooms now open, consumers feel more comfortable enjoying meals indoors again.

Prices are up compared to last year, but basket size is down

Higher prices (10%+) are fueling average check performance. Yet, we’re seeing signs that guests are starting to change their behavior. Basket size is decreasing, likely because of price sensitivity. While consumers placed larger orders more frequently throughout the pandemic, contributing to average check growth, for Q1 2022, the quantity per transaction is down 3%.

In our Q1 consumer report, 68% of respondents feel restaurant prices are higher or much higher, nearly double the percentage (35%) that felt the pinch in Q1 2021. In addition, 40% stated that they are now getting less value from restaurants. Of those, 82% are pointing to higher prices as the reason.

The combination of all of these factors may lead to guests ordering more value-oriented items (trade down), visiting restaurants less frequently or stopping to come altogether (trade out).  


  • Lunch and dinner menus are experiencing the most significant overall price increases, at approximately 11%. Breakfast prices report lower inflation, closer to 7%.
  • Traffic at lunch and dinner is also down approximately -3%, respectively. Breakfast, which trended positively throughout 2021, reported lesser negative traffic results in Q1 of this year (-0.4%).

As the industry experiences trade-down and potentially edges toward trade-out, proceeding with caution and making the most of your available data can help. If you’re interested in data-driven solutions based on your specific guest patterns, please reach out to us. We’re here to help.

Consultant’s Corner

As Restaurant Chains Continue To Raise Prices, Consumers Are Starting To Notice

As restaurant prices increase, customers are paying more attention to value. Alicia Kelso, a senior contributor at Forbes, discusses how restaurant brands plan to navigate the current inflationary climate and relied on RMS data to examine how rising prices throughout the industry impact customer behavior. See the full story here.

Where Does the Restaurant Industry Go from Here?

QSR Magazine‘s Danny Klein takes a deep dive into the current environment of the restaurant industry and discusses consumer behaviors and industry trends we can expect going forward, featuring RMS’ Francois Acerra. Click here to learn more.

RMS is 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.

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