Digs Into QSR Dining Habits

Some pre-pandemic dining patterns return, while some new behaviors are sticking around.

January 25, 2024

Consumers shifted their dining patterns during the pandemic, with many adjusting when, and where, they went out to eat. took a look at a few fast-casual dining chains and examined where things stand with customers' visiting habits following the pandemic.

According to the data, McDonald’s saw a significant drop in its share of early morning and lunch visits between 2019 and 2021, likely a result of fewer workers heading into the office and grabbing a coffee or Big Mac, said. But 2023 saw breakfast visits ticking back up, growing from 15.9% to 16.7% year over year, perhaps driven by a gradual return to in-person work.

Meanwhile, at Panda Express, which also saw lunchtime visits drop in 2021, visits between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. steadily increased and almost reached pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Midday visits also increased while dinnertime (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.) visits decreased slightly. This could be in part to the chain’s recent focus on building out its to-go options, which allows customers to pick up dinner on their way home instead of heading out to dine on-premises, according to

Like the other two chains, Chipotle also experienced a decline in lunchtime visits in 2021. Unlike Panda Express, the lunchtime rush at Chipotle has yet to return in full force, with the share of visits between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. just 36.2% in 2023, compared with 40.0% in 2019, according to At the same time, mid-afternoon (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) visits picked up, which may be due to the chain’s relatively high prices compared to the other two chains, leading some consumers to stick with lower-cost afternoon snacks from the QSR instead of full meals.

Also, evening visits to Chipotle have increased, perhaps driven by the wider QSR trend towards more late-night visits and by some consumers choosing to visit for their main meal of the day instead of splurging on an on-the-go lunch.

Each year, NACS conducts Convenience Voices, a proprietary syndicated mobile shopper insights program, to uncover the latest convenience retail consumer preferences and trends. Learn more about how you can access the latest report, Understanding Your Convenience Shoppers.