A restaurant customer carries two cartons of food.

Can off-premises growth offset dine-in loss? It's not an easy equation.

Full-Service Restaurant Sales Drop 74 Percent in Five Days

Black Box continues to show a challenging arena for sit-down brands nationwide.

Restaurant sales have declined rapidly at the national level over the last week, as evidenced by massive furlough programs and corporate-store shut downs in recent days. But the full-service arena continues to get battered the hardest.

According to Black Box Intelligence’s Daily Tracker, year-over-year comps for full-service brands declined 74 percent on average during the last five days.

Off-premises sales reached north of 60 percent growth, year-over-year, for sit-down chains and almost 30 percent for quick-service concepts, as of March 23.


Consistent with historical trends, satisfaction scores for consumers ordering delivery remain significantly lower than dine-in and takeout sentiment, Black Box said—a reality that’s hampering today’s reality. Landry’s, an industry giant that directs more than 600 locations, including a plethora of fine-dining spots, like Morton’s The Steakhouse and Mastro’s Restaurants, said restaurants operating takeout only are bringing in just 4–5 percent of normal sales. The company recently furloughed 40,000 employees.

J. Alexander’s noted in an announcement this week that carryout models are generating just 10–20 percent of typical weekly take. And same-store sales have fallen nearly 25 percent in March. It furloughed 3,400 workers.

Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney told MarketWatch, “The industry isn’t large enough for all restaurants to survive just on delivery, but they can survive for a matter of weeks potentially. It’s definitely not a long-term solution to bridge across restaurants.” He estimated as much as 30 percent of restaurants could close from the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Black Box’s added top coronavirus themes in restaurant reviews so far include, one, guests displaying their support for restaurants during the pandemic and, two, people using it as a platform to voice their opinion on restaurant staffing decisions.

As this unfolds, Black Box said, grocery sales have surged 52.9 percent compared to the same week last year. Consumers shifted 10 percent of their share-of-stomach spend away from restaurants to grocers.

Returning to the point around delivery and takeout, especially for full-service brands, Datassential recently asked 1,000 customers, “In this current climate of coronavirus, which of the following would you be very willing to do?”

The answers below show a guest open to trying new outlets, but there remains a lot of confusion over which one to choose and some trepidation across the board. And you can see in the drive thru versus takeout comparison how ingrained consumers habits are, and how difficult that is to shift in a hurry.

Drive thru

  • Total: 57 percent
  • Gen Z: 45 percent
  • Millennial: 54 percent
  • Gen X: 55 percent
  • Boomer-plus: 69 percent (this is key)

Pickup (order ahead)

  • Total: 53 percent
  • Gen Z: 40 percent
  • Millennial: 49 percent
  • Gen X: 55 percent
  • Boomer-plus: 61 percent


  • Total: 47 percent
  • Gen Z: 46 percent
  • Millennial: 52 percent
  • Gen X: 49 percent
  • Boomer-plus: 40 percent

Curbside (bring to car)

  • Total: 46 percent
  • Gen Z: 37 percent
  • Millennial: 47 percent
  • Gen X: 45 percent
  • Boomer-plus: 51 percent


  • Total: 46 percent
  • Gen Z: 32 percent
  • Millennial: 42 percent
  • Gen X: 48 percent
  • Boomer-plus: 53 percent

Walk-up window

  • Total: 38 percent
  • Gen Z: 29 percent
  • Millennial: 42 percent
  • Gen X: 36 percent
  • Boomer-plus: 43 percent

To put it simply, off-premises is still a low-adoption practice for many diners, especially older ones.

But on the more optimistic side, Datassential found that many guests remain open to an array of options to support restaurants. For operators, it’s just about finding the one they can execute safely, efficiently, and profitably. And to get that message across. Whether or not the ends up being enough is a harsh notion brands of all sizes are trying to grapple with.

What would motivate you to get food from restaurants during this time of Coronavirus?

  • Order takeout/delivery today and get a discount to dine-in later: 38 percent
  • Take-and-bake items: 31 percent
  • Portion of your order donated to support people affected by coronavirus: 29 percent
  • Multi-serving/family-sized items that can be eat over several meals: 29 percent
  • Expanded delivery zones: 28 percent
  • Expanded delivery hours: 25 percent
  • Containers of your favorite restaurant’s sauces, dressings, or seasonings: 25 percent
  • Groceries from the restaurant: 24 percent
  • A free roll of toilet paper or bottle of hand sanitizer with your order: 21 percent
  • Gift card purchases: 21 percent

Also, here’s a more in-depth look at where the restaurant traffic is going as more customers interact with restaurants from home.

More data to chew on

QSR Automations has updated data daily that looks at front-of-house and back-of-house traffic culled from across 20 of the top 25 casual-dining chains, as well as counter-service sites.

So rather than only focusing on one type of data stream, it represents both FOH guest traffic and kitchen transactions/orders being prepared.

This first set of data shows that the number of orders has substantiality decreased due to the decline of traffic inside the restaurant. But, notably, transactions are still being sent to the kitchen due to off-premises expansion.

QSR Automations graph

The second set looks at same-store, year-over-year seated guests and represents the decline in visits for on-premises dining. QSR Automations said it’s unlikely the number will dip below triple digits moving forward as restaurants continue to shut down dining rooms.

Here’s a dive into year-over-year change in guest checks.

QSR Automations graph.

QSR Automations graph.