CHICAGO — The foodservice industry’s recovery stalled in January, with physical and online visits to restaurants down 2% for the month, compared to an 8% decline in January 2021, according to data from The NPD Group.
The market research company found consumer spending at restaurants increased 4% in the first month of the year, reflecting higher food and operational costs, while total traffic decreased 10% from the pre-pandemic level in January 2020. The rough patch followed 10 consecutive months of traffic gains over steep pandemic-related declines.
“No one ever said the road to recovery would be smooth and steady,” said David Portalatin, food industry adviser at The NPD Group. “Right now, we’re experiencing a dip in the road due to the omicron variant and stimulus money expiring.”
Online and physical visits to quick-service restaurants, which account for the bulk of industry traffic, declined by 3% in the month compared with a year ago when visits decreased by 3% in January 2021, down 7% from January 2020. Traffic at full-service restaurants increased by 2% over a 22% decline a year ago but was still down 21% from two years ago.
While dine-in traffic increased by 40%, the jump compares with a 61% decline a year ago. On-premises visits were down 46% from the pre-pandemic level in January 2020. Off-premises orders, including delivery, drive-thru and carryout, were down 10% in the month compared with a 22% increase in January 2021.
“Looking ahead, we should expect volatility,” Mr. Portalatin said. “February restaurant numbers will be compared to a rough February last year because of extreme weather. My advice is don’t get too discouraged by January or too elated if February seems great. Just stay the course because we’re on a steady path of gradual improvement.”The NPD Group expects restaurant traffic should recover 98% of 2019 visits by the end of 2022.