April 28, 2020

Consumer pent-up demand for restaurants remains strong

Takeout and delivery are the only restaurant options available for the vast majority of consumers across the country. Based on weekly surveys conducted by the National Restaurant Association beginning in late-February, the proportion of consumers using these off-premises options remained remarkably consistent throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Fully six in 10 adults say they ordered takeout or delivery from a restaurant for a dinner meal last week – a level that has held relatively steady during the past two months. In addition, an off-premises lunch purchase was made by roughly four in 10 adults during each of the last nine weeks.

Twenty percent of consumers say they picked up a breakfast meal, snack or beverage in the morning from a coffee shop or restaurant last week. This is down from roughly three in 10 adults who reported similarly in late-February.

For restaurants that are offering off-premises options, the good news is that many consumers want more. Fifty-two percent of adults say they are not ordering takeout or delivery from restaurants as often as they would like. As a point of comparison, 44 percent reported similarly when the Association fielded the same question in mid-January.

Fifty-eight percent of baby boomers say they would like to order takeout or delivery more frequently right now. This is roughly 10 percentage points higher than their counterparts in the younger generations.

Not surprisingly, a strong majority of consumers say they would like to be dining out at restaurants more frequently – as this option is largely unavailable throughout most of the country. Eighty-three percent of adults say they are not eating on the premises at restaurants as often as they would like. This is up from 45 percent who reported similarly in mid-January, and by far the highest level in the two decades that the Association has been fielding this survey question.

Baby boomers (90 percent) are the most likely to report that they would like to be eating at restaurants more often, though at least three in four adults in each age group want to increase their frequency. This suggests that as dining room doors being to reopen, pent-up demand among consumers will be strong.

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.