Canadian Pizza Magazine

Canadian food-service customer visits and spending increased by 11% in first quarter of 2023

By Canadian Pizza   

News Business and Operations Finance

Canada’s food-service industry continued its robust recovery from pandemic losses in the first quarter of 2023 as it crossed the final round of lockdowns from early 2022, reports Circana, formerly IRI and The NPD Group. Customer visits to restaurants and other food-service outlets increased by 11 per cent, and spending grew by 18 per cent in the quarter ending March compared to a year ago.

“Food-service traffic has been on an upward trend over the past two years,” said Vince Sgabellone, Circana food-service industry analyst, in a news release. “The first quarter of this year continues this trend by surpassing pre-pandemic 2019 first quarter traffic volume.”

Since pandemic lockdowns were lifted, a key reason for growth has been the significant gain in on-premises, dine-in visits. Dine-in visits jumped by 59 per cent in the first quarter versus the same quarter a year ago. Though off-premises traffic, like carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery, still represent a larger share of total food-service visits (66 per cent), these visits declined by five per cent in the reporting period.

Shifting behaviours, like more people returning to worksites or out-of-home routines, have helped to increase food-service visits throughout the day, particularly at the breakfast and morning snack periods. While all dayparts grew in the first quarter, the morning meal daypart increased visits by 13 per cent and currently holds the largest daypart traffic share. Lunch and dinner daypart visits grew by 10 per cent, and afternoon snack grew by eight per cent in the quarter versus a year ago, Circana reports.

Although full-service restaurants had the most traffic growth, a 24 per cent gain, quick-service restaurants held a 67 per cent share of all food-service visits and increased visits by nine per cent in the quarter. Full-service traffic represented a 22 per cent share of visits. Retail food service, like prepared foods at convenience and grocery stores, defines the remainder of traffic share, and visits to these outlets were down five per cent in the quarter compared to a year ago.

“Some of the key transformations to watch in the coming quarters include the strength of morning meal as consumers continue to resume out-of-home activities; re-settling of carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery as some of the pent-up demand for in-person visits migrates back to off-premises; and the shifting influence of the different generational groups,” Sgabellone said. “Also playing out is the ascent of small chains and independents, which have collectively exceeded their pre-COVID share of visits. These restaurants were hardest hit over the past three years, and their growth could be another indicator of an upcoming market transformation.”


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