Research - OCTOBER 14, 2021

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U.S. fast-casual restaurant visits rebound after steep declines in 2020

by Andrea Zander

U.S. fast-casual restaurants did not fare as well as traditional quick-service restaurants early in the pandemic, but their customers are returning, reported The NPD Group. Online and physical visits to fast-casual restaurants in the year ending August 2021 were up 8 percent compared with a year ago, which keeps traffic on par or flat to pre-pandemic visits in August 2019. In the quarter ending June 2020, at the height of pandemic lockdowns and restaurant restrictions, fast-casual visits were down 23 percent compared with the prior year, according to NPD’s daily tracking of the restaurant industry.

Generally, fast-casual restaurants lacked the drive-thru capabilities and off-premises operational efficiencies of traditional quick-service restaurants early in the pandemic. However, fast-casual chains that had a solid off-premises business before the pandemic grew traffic and traffic share during this time. Since the early months of the pandemic, those fast-casual restaurants

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