Online and physical visits to Canadian restaurants and foodservice outlets were flat in the year ending September 2021 compared to a year ago when traffic was down double-digits. Helping the industry recover was the growth in foodservice off-premises orders from carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery reports The NPD Group. Although foodservice traffic has improved from the steep declines experienced last year, visits were 18% below the pre-pandemic level in September 2019, according to NPD’s continual tracking of the Canadian foodservice industry.
Off-premises modes were a lifeline for the foodservice industry during the height of the pandemic, and more restaurants and foodservice outlets have since expanded these offerings or added them. In the year ending September 2021, off-premises represented 83% of all foodservice visits. Carry-out, which holds 46% of foodservice traffic, increased by 23% in the period over last year. Drive-thru, representing 28% of visits, increased by 14%, and delivery, which represents 8% of traffic, grew by 27%, reports NPD.
Quick service restaurants, most of which had well-developed off-premises operations in place before the pandemic, benefited from the growth in off-premises visits. Online and physical visits to QSRs grew by 4% in the year ending September 2021 and were down 11% compared to the same period in 2019. Full service visits, which rely on dine-in traffic, are improving compared to a year ago but were down -4% in the reporting period compared to a year ago and down 31% from the year ending September 2019.
“When the weather chases Canadians back into their homes, restaurant visits will, as they always do, trend downward,” says Vince Sgabellone, NPD foodservice industry analyst. “That doesn’t mean the industry cannot continue to make up for lost ground. A focus on new industry realities like safety protocols, digital ordering, and non-traditional business solutions like meal kits will continue to deliver dividends. When paired with traditional business drivers like good service, food quality, and value, these initiatives will help the industry finish 2021 on a high note.”
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