Restaurant transactions stabilize as coronavirus cases increase

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As coronavirus cases increase in the United States and many states revamp indoor dining, restaurant transactions have leveled off.The NPD Group tracks transactions at 75 restaurant chains that account for more than half of total commercial restaurant traffic in the United States. According to its data, the U.S. restaurant industry began to reverse trading declines in April and was approaching a return to last year’s trading levels by mid-June.

Then the cases of Covid-19 started to increase again. Some states have started closing bars and dining rooms – or at least restricting indoor dining capacity, such as in Texas – after some outbreaks were traced to those establishments.

Research suggests that the coronavirus can be transmitted through air particles in closed indoor spaces, a position the World Health Organization has said it cannot rule out. Health experts say eating or drinking indoors is riskier than outdoors, where the virus can dissipate faster.

Consumers are now avoiding restaurants, bars and cafes more, according to a Coresight Research survey of more than 400 respondents. On July 22, 61.9% of respondents said they avoided these establishments, up from 61.2% a week earlier.

Full-service restaurants, which have already been hit hardest by the pandemic, appear to be hit harder by the behavior change. Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A can rely on their driveways to generate sales, and their cheap offerings are also luring cash-strapped consumers during the crisis.

Full-service restaurants, on the other hand, saw their drop in transactions reverse more quickly in May and June as states reopened their dining halls. And many of those chains were stunted even before the pandemic, making it difficult for their ability to stay afloat.

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