Setting The Table: Our In-Depth Look At Fast Food

Welcome to QSR Land, the maiden voyage of MediaPost’s new weekly newsletter covering the fast-changing world of QSR and casual dining.

MediaPost decided to start this newsletter a few months back, intrigued by shifts in the category, especially the ever-more-clever menu and digital innovations. Then the COVID-19 virus started tearing through the restaurant-scape. And, to steal a headline from the telehealth  industry: We’ve seen 10 years of change in one week.

America is as hungry as ever, but confused and frightened. Is it safe for me to order fast food? Is it safe for the people preparing it? And even if we have contactless transactions, how safe are the drivers making deliveries?

As a starter, let’s chew on some numbers. The latest from Yelp’s data science team indicates that QSRs are dominating people’s searches, as they look for drive-through options to help them stay a safe distance from others. And U.S. consumer interest in restaurants has plummeted 54%, with interest in nightlife options dropping 69%. Not so surprising then, that Eater reports total number of hours worked in the food and drink sector had fallen 40% by March 17.

But interest in pizzerias is up 44%, and fast-food restaurants up 64%.

And with 75% of the U.S. currently under stay-at-home orders, restaurants are pivoting to delivery in record times. Even as restaurants are laying off staff, some chains are falling over themselves to recruit.

Pizza Hut is adding 30,000 workers, and speeding up its hiring routine. Papa John’s is looking to add 20,000. And Domino’s says it plans to hire 10,000 new team members.

All this change is making everyone in the category dizzy. Some Federal Reserve predictions now expect the unemployment rate may go as high as 32%, far surpassing the 24% rate America experienced during the Great Depression. And few jobs are as vulnerable as food-service workers.

It's also hard to stay dry-eyed when reading about the generosity of so many companies and individuals stepping up to create emergency funding for the most vulnerable workers.

We’re humbled and honored to step into this coverage at a time of such flux and fear. On a weekly basis, we hope to help by serving new perspectives and interviews with QSR leaders and innovators around the country.

My name is Sarah, and I’ll be your server today. We want to hear from you. If you’d like to talk to QSR Land, email me at
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