CHICAGO — Traffic at US restaurants improved in February after stalling in January due to the omicron variant, according to data from The NPD Group.
Online and physical visits were up 2% for the month, and consumer spending was up 8% compared with February 2021. Total restaurant traffic was down 8% from the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
“February began with visits soft as omicron suppressed consumer sentiment for dining out,” said David Portalatin, food industry adviser at The NPD Group. “On the other hand, the back half of February benefited from comparisons to last year's historic winter deep freeze.”
Online and physical visits to quick-service restaurants improved by 1% compared to a 7% decline in February 2021. Traffic at full-service restaurants increased by 6% over a 22% decline a year ago.
The NPD Group found the morning daypart recovered in February, with industry-wide breakfast traffic increasing 5% in the month compared with a 12% decline last year. Online and physical orders for breakfast at quick-service restaurants, which account for 88% of total foodservice traffic in the morning, increased by 6% compared with an 11% decline a year ago. Total restaurant dinner traffic improved by 6% over a 12% decline last February.
“Looking ahead, we should see some seasonal demand start to heat up in March and COVID-related concerns diminishing,” Portalatin said. “The wild card will be how consumers respond to ongoing inflation, including $4-plus per gallon gasoline.”