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U.S. restaurant industry holds steady with May traffic

U.S. restaurant industry holds steady with May traffic surge

Chicago, June 21, 2023 – Quick service restaurants (QSRs) have historically represented the majority share of U.S. restaurant industry traffic, which means as quick service goes, so goes the industry.

A 1% increase in quick service restaurant visits in May, representing 82% of all industry traffic, offset full-service restaurant traffic declines, keeping the entire restaurant industry stable in the month compared to a year ago, reports Circana, formerly IRI and The NPD Group.

Broadline foodservice case unit and dollar shipments to QSRs were up 1%, and total restaurant cases and dollars were up 1% in May compared to a year ago.  

The morning meal daypart, which includes the breakfast and A.M. snack periods, continues to be a traffic driver for QSRs; visits were up 5% in May over a year ago. P.M. snack was also a growth area for the segment, with a visit gain of 5%. Lunch and dinner realized single-digit traffic declines in the month versus a year ago. 

Both traditional QSRs, like specialty, sandwich, and snack quick service restaurants, and fast casual restaurants contributed to May’s traffic growth. Visits to traditional QSRs grew by 1% and fast casual restaurant traffic by 4% compared to a year ago. Some of the month’s visit growth can be attributed to the addition of QSR traditional and fast casual locations. Locations for traditional QSRs increased by 2.5%, and fast casual chains rose by 2.3%, according to Circana’s Fall 2022 restaurant census that counts locations opened as of September 30, 2022.    

Still recovering from steep pandemic-related losses, full service restaurant (FSRs) visits declined by 3% in May compared to a year ago. Major FSR chains fared better than independents, with traffic down 1%, versus independent FSRs’ 3% decline.   

“The QSR segment extended an impressive winning streak in May with the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year traffic gains. Morning meal continues to drive QSR growth,” says David Portalatin, Circana food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Full service restaurants continue to face headwinds, but despite the headwinds, several FSR chains are winning by improving on-premises demand and delighting customers with good value and great experiences.”   

About Circana

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