CHICAGO — Although total U.S. restaurant traffic has been down across dayparts for most of 2020 and through February 2021, late afternoon and after-dinner snack visits have increased.
Consumer visits to restaurants during the p.m. snack period, which ranges from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., increased by +5 percent in January and +3 percent vs. the same period last year, the NPD Group reported.
The p.m. snack daypart also gained a 3-percent increase in share of occasions in the last quarter of 2020 while every other daypart posted declines, according to NPD's daily tracking of how consumers use restaurants.
The top growing reasons consumers give for visiting during the p.m. snack period are the quality of food and the desire for a treat. "The kids like it there," "regularly go there" and "had a special taste or craving" were also on par as reasons for a p.m. snack visit.
During the p.m. snack period, consumers' restaurants of choice tend to be quick-service restaurant chains, while more substantial meal offerings, like pizza and burgers, have been performing the best.
"Because of the pandemic and the disruption of our normal commuting patterns and daily routines, we have more flexibility in deciding when and what to eat, and p.m. snack is the beneficiary of this fluidity," said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. "This growing daypart is a clear opportunity for restaurant operators."
Based in Chicago, the NPD Group offers data, industry expertise and prescriptive analytics to help clients grow their businesses in a changing world.