- Transactions at restaurants declined 7% during the Thanksgiving week ending Dec. 1 compared to the same week in 2018, according to NPD Group data emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- Restaurant transactions declined by 8% for both casual dining and QSRs according to Crest Performance Alerts, which provides weekly looks at chain-specific transactions at 73 chains.
- On the other hand, midscale and family dining restaurants increased transactions by 18% during Thanksgiving week.
Restaurant same-store traffic decline was negative 3.5% in Q3, the worst performance in the last two years, according to TDn2K data, so it isn’t much of a surprise that restaurant growth has been slow heading into the holiday season.
"Over the Black Friday weekend, when the assumption may be that people are out shopping and need to eat, consumers don’t visit restaurants because they may have too many leftovers from Thanksgiving, they're shopping online, or they just want to get to the stores, buy what they want and get back home," David Portalatin, NPD Group vice president and food industry advisor, said in a statement.
Traffic declines have been most notable for restaurants near malls, where more casual and fine dining restaurants have historically been, and even restaurants in lifestyle centers, David Bagley, managing director at Carl Marks Advisors, told Restaurant Dive. In general, his restaurant clients near malls have been seeing declines of 10% to 12% while restaurants in lifestyle centers were flat or 3% to 4% down in traffic, he said.
Among his restaurant clients, a typical uptick in traffic that was expected beginning Columbus Day didn't occur this year. While this was expected among his restaurant clients tied to malls, restaurants at lifestyle centers didn’t get the traditional bump either, Bagley said.
Lifestyle centers tend to have a movie theater or other entertainment venue meant to draw foot traffic, and these retail locations are generally seen as an alternative retail location to long-struggling malls. These traffic declines continued into November, but nowhere near the magnitude of mall locations, he said.
While promotions and national advertising campaigns tend to help overall brand awareness, they haven’t been particularly helpful for driving traffic at individual locations, he said. His firm has been working with clients to craft marketing strategies that help promote larger groups and events to drive more people out, he said.
Despite these declines, retail spend has been good and the economy is doing fairly well, with more people employed, Bagley said. October also had more restaurant operators report higher same-store traffic (44%) than lower traffic (35%) compared to October 2018, according to the National Restaurant Association.
"There is a lot of uncertainty, but as always, a lot of anticipation for a good holiday season," Bagley said.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, David Bagley's title was misidentified. He is managing director at Carl Marks Advisors.