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Forecast Decline in Sales: Post-Pandemic Normalization or a Sign of Recession?

Published on August 15, 2022
By Adam Harrell

Is the recession about to impact restaurant sales? According to Forrester, creating a customer-obsessed organization enables companies to more easily sense and respond to market circumstances. This flexibility and agility ensure customer loyalty, staff engagement, and revenue growth in any economic climate.

For a number of reasons, restaurants fared fairly well during 2021 compared to 2020. People began returning to a more normal life. They did so with a little extra money in their pockets thanks to stimulus payments and fairly healthy personal/household budgets perhaps because they had not spent as much during 2020 dining out or vacationing There was money to go around, and if guests weren’t quite ready to visit dining rooms, they could still visit their local quick-serve drive-thru, order for delivery, or visit a restaurant offering takeout or curbside.

Let’s take a look at how total sales changed at limited-service restaurants shared by the National Restaurant Association in its 2021 Mid-Year State of the Restaurant Industry Report, as shared in QSR Magazine:

  • 2019 sales (billions): $308.9
  • 2020 sales (billions): $290.4
  • 2021 sales (billions): $339

Limited Service restaurants saw $339 billion in 2021 sales compared to 2019 sales of just shy of $309 billion. Not bad.

Full-service restaurants as a whole didn’t make out quite as well as quick-serve, with 2021 sales not quite catching up with 2019 sales. But the full-service segment did experience an increase between 2020 and 2021:

  • 2019 sales (billions): $285
  • 2020 sales (billions): $199.5
  • 2021 sales (billions): $255

Sales data for full-service restaurants also comes from the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 Mid-Year State of the Restaurant Industry Report, as shared in QSR Magazine:

Will Sales Decline in the Last Quarter of 2022? Into 2023?

Sources we have access to expect that restaurant sales in the coming months are forecast to drop 4.3%. This begs the question: What could be prompting his drop? Might it be a matter of sales ‘normalizing’ after spiking during 2021 due to pent-up demand and other reasons discussed above? Or a sign of recession?

Could it be that people who missed out on vacations and travel for about the past two years are expected to redirect some of their discretionary budgets toward vacations and away from food and beverage?

Or are other economic factors such as higher gas prices and inflation expected to prompt consumers to reign in their spending on food outside the home to cover these other areas that are eating away at their household budget?

The big question we hope to help our customers answer is the one below.

What Can Food and Beverage Providers Do?

If a recession hits as expected, and guests turn down their hunger for eating and drinking out, what can restaurants and bars do to compensate?

Win new guests and encourage loyalty. Check out these stats related to guest engagement to see if any of them resonate with what you know about your guests and your goals: 

  • $26/month: average monthly spending lift for brands that demonstrate loyalty (Bond 2022)
  • 78% of customers say loyalty programs make them more likely to do business with brands (Bond 2022)

According to Forrester, creating a customer-obsessed organization enables companies to more easily sense and respond to market circumstances. This flexibility and agility ensure customer loyalty, staff engagement, and revenue growth in any economic climate.

Economic challenges provide the ideal time to develop a customer-first culture, and one way to ‘programmatize’ loyalty in your business is through a feature-rich loyalty program like Punchh that is based on thousands of implementations and decades of expertise. Best of all, PAR and Punchh offer a full ecosystem of solutions that help you understand your market, get more new guests through your door, and encourage repeat visits – precisely the steps that can help any restaurant weather and even thrive during difficult economic times.

We put together a super helpful eBook that explains how a customer-first strategy can help your business engage with guests to encourage repeat visits. Download the free eBook to learn more.

Double down on operations and technology innovations that worked during the pandemic, including implementing new tech that supports more ways to serve guests. What worked, according to a survey of operators published as part of the 2022 NRA State of the Industry Report?

  • 8 in 10 operators say using technology in the restaurant provides a competitive edge; many plans to increase tech investment.
  • Roughly 50% of operators expect outdoor dining will become more common in their segment this year.
  • Off-prem. 54% of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is essential to the way they live, including 72% of millennials. One in four limited-service, family dining, and fast casual operators plan to devote more resources to expanding their off-premises business.

Go lean without reducing the perception of value.

The NRA offers great insights based on the input of operators and consumers alike. To cope with economic and supply chain challenges, restaurants streamlined menu offerings.

In fact, 8 in 10 full-service and two-thirds of limited-service operators changed menu offerings because of supply chain delays and shortages. Hikes in ingredient and supply prices are prompting ongoing creativity and streamlining.

Facing a need to operate in a leaner fashion as well as a potential recession, restaurants likely will need to continue to get creative with menus, optimizing ingredients across a range of dayparts and menu offerings, for example, as well as having available substitutions that will work in a pinch in case of supply chain chokepoints.

According to the NRA 2022 State of the Industry Report, coming out of the pandemic, consumers are expressing a liking for:

  • Fresh or packaged foods and meal kits for takeout
  • Meal subscription programs

Learn More

PAR offers solutions and expertise to help operators weather constant change. Learn more by visiting our website or contact us with your questions or to request a demo.

Tiffany Disher, General Manager, MENU North America

Tiffany Disher

General Manager, MENU North America

Tiffany Disher, General Manager, MENU North America, an omni-channel ordering solution to futureproof restaurant’s growing digital sales needs. Before taking on this new role in January 2023, she was an integral part of Punchh’s growth story. She has advised hundreds of customers over the past eight years on their loyalty strategies both from a base program standpoint as well as ongoing marketing strategies. Before Punchh, Tiffany worked for Schlotzsky’s where she supported the brand marketing team by leading loyalty, eClub, R&D, Franchise advisory council and marketing analytics. Tiffany has her Bachelor’s of Science in Economics from University of Oregon and Master’s in Business with a specialty in Marketing from Baylor University. An avid golfer, hiker and mom of two small children, Tiffany spends her limited free time entering into baking competitions.