Restaurant Traffic Was Down 4% in April

Traffic is down 11% compared to pre-pandemic levels, and rising costs are to blame.

June 01, 2022

Restaurant closing

CHICAGO—The cost for a foodservice meal was up 9% in April compared to April 2019, contributing to a 4% decline in consumer visits to U.S. restaurants this April compared to a year ago, reports the NPD Group, and food inflation and rising costs are to blame.

Restaurant traffic in April was 11% below traffic in April 2019. There was a 1% increase in consumer spending at restaurants last month versus a year ago, but NPD says that was more a reflection of higher prices than increased use of restaurants, according to NPD's daily tracking of the U.S. foodservice industry.

Online and physical visits to quick service restaurants declined by 4% in April compared to a year ago and is 6% below the April 2019 pre-pandemic baseline. Traffic to full-service restaurants, which had the steepest declines during the pandemic, was down 3% this April compared to a year ago, which is 31% below April 2019 visits.

Rising restaurant prices have had the most impact on lower-income households and households with kids. For consumers in households with annual incomes under $50,000, their restaurant visits declined by 11% in April 2022 compared to the same month a year ago. Traffic from households with kids under age 6 was down 8% and decreased by 9% for households with kids ages 6 to 12 in April compared to a year ago. Visits from groups with kids, from the same home or not, were down 14% from a year ago, while traffic from adult-only groups was up 1% this April compared to April 2021.

"Rising prices put pressures on consumers that contribute to the restaurant industry slowdown. For many consumers, it's more affordable to eat at home," says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. "This is when operators need to demonstrate their value to consumers struggling with inflation and be solutions-oriented to help consumers meet needs across life stages."

Fast-food chains are amping their breakfast promotions and loyalty programs to recapture the morning daypart that was severely crippled by COVID-19. QSR traffic was up 11% in 2021, according to the National Restaurant Association, despite many workers continuing to work from home and only some children back to in-person school. A new DoorDash report shows that breakfast orders on the app increased three-fold between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. in 2021 compared to 2020.

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