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Breakfast, Morning Snack & Lunch Business Returning at U.S. Restaurants

On-premises dining is also recovering, although not reaching pre-pandemic levels.

CHICAGO — The breakfast, morning snack and lunch dayparts that were impacted by people not being outside their homes during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to improve, with restaurant visits for these meals and snacks increasing.

In the three months ending November 2021, online and physical visits to restaurants for breakfast increased by 11 percent, compared to a 10-percent decline in the same period a year ago, reported The NPD Group. From a pre-pandemic view, breakfast traffic is now at the same level as September through November in 2019.

The morning snack daypart improved visits by 6 percent compared to a 7-percent decline in 2020 and down 1 percent for the same period in 2019. Lunch improved by 4 percent for the same period vs. 2021 when visits were down by 11 percent. The daypart is beginning to recover but still 7 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to NPD.

More good news can be found in dining on-premises that is recovering, even during morning and lunch occasions. NPD research revealed:

  • Visits to dine-in at breakfast increased by 51 percent in September through November compared to the same period in 2020 when on-premises traffic was down 55 percent.
  • The morning snack daypart increased dine-in visits by 51 percent compared to the reported period the prior year when on-premises traffic declined by 48 percent.
  • Lunch improved on-premises traffic by 44 percent in September through November compared to the 60-percent decline in the same period in 2020. 

However, NPD stressed that despite substantial gains in recent months, traffic levels for all dayparts at on-premises restaurants remain well-below pre-pandemic levels. 

"The increased mobility this fall contributed to year-over-year gains at key restaurant dayparts, although visits are not fully back to pre-pandemic levels," said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. "We're in a steady-state for the next several months, perhaps with a bump up or down here and there, but we expect to lag pre-pandemic traffic levels through 2022 slightly."

Based in Chicago, the NPD Group offers data, industry expertise and prescriptive analytics to help clients grow their businesses in a changing world.

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