Online and physical restaurant visits declined 2% in the first quarter of 2022, as reported by the data analytics company, NPD Group. Quick-service restaurants (QSR’s) saw online and physical visits decline by 2%, while full-service restaurants (FSR’s) saw online and physical traffic increase by 2%.

After one of the most unbelievably bullish markets in memory, 2022 has hit like a ton of bricks. Late 2021 had an omicron breakout that pushed things back a little bit, but then the war in Ukraine started. That added fuel to the dumpster fire that Covid caused to the supply chain. At about the same time, inflation hit a 40-year high. This triumvirate of catastrophes forced the turtle back into its shell, so to speak. And of course, it was the service sector that took the most immediate damage.

QSR delivery, drive-thru, and carry-out traffic declined by 8%.

When we look at average spending in restaurants, we see that it went up only because prices went up, not because of greater traffic. Daypart visits across all restaurants were flat or declined slightly. Lunch visits and evening snack visits declined by 4% and 2%, respectively, the former mainly due to the significant decrease in worksite attendance.

Off-premises traffic through delivery, drive-thru, and carry-out declined by 9%. Off-premises QSR traffic declined by 8%. Off-premises FSR traffic took the biggest hit with a 24% decline. That’s especially significant because that category represents around one-third of all full-service restaurant visits.

It isn’t all bad. Here’s the good news. Dine-in restaurant visits increased by a whopping 38%. Dine-in QSR traffic increased by 53% and dine-in FSR visits increased by 26. Obviously, eating out is coming back, big.

Dining out has made a comeback.

So, to sum up, off-premises dining declined overall while dine-in traffic increased overall, which is a total flip-flop from a year ago when many restaurants were still struggling to fill seats. It seems that people still do favor the convenience of digital ordering and delivery, but it is very nice to see some indication that sit-down restaurants are seeing business come back.

As we approach warmer weather and increased out-of-the-home activity, traffic to restaurants of all kinds, both on-premises and off, should pick up. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to find out, as Memorial Day weekend, and with it, the beginning of summer, is just around the corner.