Exploring the Hushed Ambiance of Fast-Food Dining Rooms Amidst Unprecedented Times

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Dine-In Sales at Fast-Food Restaurants Plummet During Pandemic

If it seems as though fast-food dining areas are emptier than they used to be, that’s because they are. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, dine-in customers now represent less than 10% of all sales at McDonald’s restaurants compared to roughly 25% before the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The shift to less dine-in sales was already underway before the pandemic, with more fast-food customers opting for drive-thru, take-out, or delivery.
  • Data from market research firm Circana shows that across all U.S. fast-food chains, dining-in represented 14% of orders through the first five months of 2023, down from around 21% just before the pandemic and 22% in 2015.
  • To-go orders are more profitable and efficient to handle, and they reduce the work needed to keep dining areas clean, making the trend welcomed by restaurant chains.
  • McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski stated during an investor call last month, “You don’t necessarily need the big dining rooms that you needed in our traditional restaurants.”
  • McDonald’s and other chains are now developing new restaurants focused on drive-thrus and carry-out with little to no dine-in option.


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