KANSAS CITY — Stock market action on March 12 hit the restaurant industry hard as share prices for several companies fell by double-digit percentages. The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak no doubt had a negative effect, and a report from Technomic, Chicago, shows the outbreak may have people reducing the frequency of their trips to restaurants for months to come.

The stock price for Sysco Corp., Houston, on the New York Stock Exchange plunged 21% to $43.51 per share, down from a March 11 close of $55.15. The stock was as low as $43.49, a 52-week low, during the day on March 12.  Sysco Corp. is a leading company in selling, marketing and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, lodging establishments and other customers who prepare meals away from home.

The coronavirus outbreak may not hurt limited-service restaurants as badly as full-service restaurants because the presence of drive-thrus limits human-to-human contact, according to the report “Coronavirus, the foodservice view” released March 5 by Technomic.

DineEquity, which owns the Applebee’s and IHOP brands, on March 12 closed at $35.00 per share on the NYSE, down 32% from the March 11 close of $51.34 per share. The 52-week low before March 12 was $50.87 per share reached during the day on March 11.

Darden Restaurants, Inc., Orlando, Fla., owns the brands Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze Island Grille and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. Its stock price on the NYSE on March 12 closed at $59.17 per share, down 16% from a March 11 close of $70.21 per share. A 52-week low of $57.27 was recorded during the day on March 12.

Restaurants, including pizza chains, that offer delivery could benefit during the coronavirus outbreak, according to Technomic.

Yum! Brands, Inc., Louisville, Ky., closed at $78.45 per share on March 12 on the NYSE, down 3% from $80.97 per on March 11. A trading price of $74.61 per share during the day on March 12 still was a 52-week low. Yum! Brands owns Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell.

Restaurant stock price drops chartChipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif., on March 12 said from March 15 to March 31 it will offer free delivery on any Chipotle order between $10 and $200 via the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com. Chipotle deliveries will feature a new, tamper-evident packaging seal to help ensure food is untouched during delivery. Chipotle closed at $603.00 per share on March 12 on the NYSE, which was down 7% from $646.39 per share on March 11. A price of $565.01 during the day on March 12 marked a 52-week low.

The stock price for Starbucks Corp., Seattle, closed at $62.10 per share on March 12 on the Nasdaq, down 9% from $68.30 per share on March 11. A 52-week low of $61.47 was recorded during the day on March 12. The Seattle Times on March 12 said the coronavirus outbreak was known to have killed 31 people in Washington state. Because of health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak, Starbucks’ annual meeting on March 18 will be in a virtual meeting format only.

McDonald’s Corp., Jack in the Box, Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. and Restaurant Brands International, Inc. all recorded 52-week lows on March 12.

The NYSE stock price for McDonald’s Corp., Chicago, on March 12 closed at $170.13 per share, down nearly 10% from the March 11 close of $188.25. Jack in the Box, San Diego, closed at $39.65 per share on the Nasdaq on March 12, down 16% from $47.11 per share on March 11. Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc., Canton, Mass., on March 12 closed with a stock price of $54.46 per share, down 15% from a close of $64.25 the day before.

The stock price for Restaurant Brands International, Inc., Toronto, on March 12 closed at $42.73 per share, down more than 10% from a March 11 close of $47.80 per share. Restaurant Brands International includes Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons.

Potential in the foodservice industry exists for delivery orders through third-party and self-delivery options, according to the Technomic report. Since consumers may need to visit supermarkets on a regular basis, the trend potentially could increase purchasing of supermarket foodservice items during grocery shopping trips.

The Technomic report involved contacting 1,000 consumers from Feb. 28 to March 2 and asking them questions about their behaviors, attitudes and possible reactions to more widespread outbreak. Joseph Pawlak, managing principal, was the author.

When asked their likely actions due to the coronavirus, 52% said they would avoid crowds, which ranked ahead of leaving the house less often at 32%, reducing their frequency of eating at restaurants at 32%, reducing their frequency of eating food away from home at 31% and ordering more delivery at 13%.

When asked how long the coronavirus might affect their frequency of eating at restaurants, 31% said one to three months, 25% said three to six months, 20% said less than one month, 16% said more than six months and 12% said permanently.

The report found 66% of respondents said they were following news stories on the spread of the coronavirus, which ranked ahead of the Democratic primaries at 45%, the Kobe Bryant tragedy at 39%, impeachment proceedings at 38% and stock market volatility at 33%.

 Thirty percent said they thought the news was being blown out of proportion while 45% disagreed with that view. Another 25% said they did not know what to think about the overall impact. Among Americans who were following the coronavirus story closely, 86% said the situation was important to them personally, and 82% said it eventually will affect the U.S. economy negatively.

When asked how restaurants should respond to the coronavirus, 84% said offer time off to sick employees, 58% said to carefully wash food and utensils, and 37% said operate like business as usual.