QSR Sales Heat Up As Temperatures Rise

It appears the negative effect of severe winter storms on QSR business earlier this year is waning. According to the latest report “Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024?” from foot traffic research firm, as temperatures warm up across the country, so do fast food sales.

As the study found, “weekly YoY visits to the QSR segment quickly rebounded (last month) following the unusual cold of the first three weeks of Jan. 2024.” Per the report, the data suggests that many consumers stayed home and cut back on dining out during the extreme weather.

“We'd expect QSR visits to improve as the weather improves, as QSR chains typically see their highest visitation periods during the summer,” R.J. Hottovy, head of analytical research at told QSR Insider. “QSR chains usually see around 9% of their annual visits each month during the May-Aug. time period, while the other months of the year usually represent 7%-8% of their annual visits.”

The report also drilled down regionally. Southern and Midwestern states not accustomed to extreme weather “may have been caught off guard.. (and thus) experienced the widest YoY dining visit gaps.”

But those living in states accustomed to insane cold and snow? They still produced dining traffic growth despite the weather. Restaurants in general saw “exceptional increases” as temperatures rose in the Upper Midwest and Northeast “further indication of the dining space’s ability to bounce back from adversity and the sustained demand for going out,” per the report.

Three specific popular chains were highlighted—Wingstop, Raising Cane’s and Whataburger— as seeing a particularly strong increase in foot traffic. The study says the three chains’ success “may be due in part to their visitor base composition,” as all three have a significant customer share of larger households of four or more people. The highlighted chains’ menus all include larger orders to create shareable meals. Thus customers see these restaurants as more affordable options as inflation remains a factor in dining decisions.

Another recent industry report from the National Retail Federation, compiled from over 140 million anonymized debit and credit cards purchases by Affinity Solutions, found data that suggested despite the bad weather, overall 2024 restaurant sales are off to a better start than last year. In Feb. 2024 there was an increase of 4.70% YOY in restaurant consumer spending, as well as an increase of 1.56% YOY from Jan 2024.

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