Restaurant Trends December 2021

US Quick-Service Trends

We continue to compare 2021 sales, traffic and average check trends to 2019, in order to best assess the performance of Quick-Service restaurants (QSR) as we find our footing in the “new normal.”

  • In November 2021, average check was up 21% compared to the same period in 2019, and sales were up 5%.
  • Traffic trends remained stable at -13% when compared to November 2019.

Comparing month over month, both average check and sales decreased by 6% since October 2021. Traffic remained stable. Though the industry predicted a jump in sales and traffic during Thanksgiving, consumers visited QSRs at the same rate and actually ordered less in November.

While many factors, such as general holiday consumer behavior, could be involved, the return-to-work may be affecting average check. During the pandemic, our consumer surveys and sales/traffic data indicated that QSR visits were an occasion for the whole family or household. With some in those households returning to the office, QSR occasions are changing back to a quick stop for the individual during a commute or for lunch in the office.

Other factors may also be at play. In our last report of 2021, when RMS asked over 800 respondents if they were ordering more or less frequently from QSR, 32% of those working primarily from the office said they ordered more from quick-service restaurants vs. 35% working primarily from home. A drop in sales/check may also be due to increasing menu prices. In the same survey, almost 60% of respondents believe they paid higher prices for restaurants in the last month.

Will consumers revert back to using quick-service to feed the household? Or will we return to working lunches? RMS will continue to observe QSR trends to keep our clients and the industry informed on what lies ahead.

Consultant’s Corner

Noodles & Co. Bets on Costlier Cheesy Pasta

The Wall Street Journal’s Heather Haddon looks at how restaurants are wrestling with how much of their own expenses can be passed along to customers to offset costs as wages, ingredients and transportation costs climb. RMS’ COO Mark Kuperman weighs in on how online menus are making it easier for restaurants to test and learn different price points.

American Restaurant Chains Are Targeting The UK For Growth. Here’s Why.

The UK has become a hotspot for US restaurant chains seeking growth opportunities. In a recent interview with Forbes Senior Contributor Alicia Kelso, RMS’ Philipp Laqué, managing director at RMS London, addresses what restaurant chains looking to expand to the UK should consider and shares key insights on how they can obtain competitive advantage.

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.

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