The Impact of COVID-19 and Social Distancing on Foot Traffic at Fast Food Restaurants

The Impact of COVID-19 and Social Distancing on Foot Traffic at Fast Food Restaurants

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are among the most popular dining choices in the country. With inexpensive fare and limited table service, QSRs offer something for everyone – from burgers and chicken to breakfast, pizza, and tacos. We wondered exactly how much consumer visit patterns to fast food restaurants have changed as a result of COVID-19 and social distancing. We examined more than 172MM visits to QSR brands during March 2020 to see exactly how foot traffic has shifted to date.

Using aggregated location data and Gravy’s Visitations dataset, we examined consumer visits at 10 popular QSRs – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’, Subway, Chick-fil-A, Domino’s, Taco Bell and Panera Bread. For ease of comparison, we compared daily device visits in March to average, same day-of-week device visits in February for each brand.

Here is what we found:

Daily Device Visits to Select QSRs

Daily Device Visits to Select QSRs

February vs. March Foot Traffic at Select QSRs

In early March, daily device visits for most QSR brands were just slightly lower than average. Unique visits spiked at nearly all QSR brands on March 12 and 13, then dropped dramatically over subsequent days. Foot traffic at most of the examined brands reached a low on or around March 21, but remained fairly stable throughout the rest of the month.

% Change in Daily Device Visits - Selected Restaurants


Burger-oriented fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, all show very similar declines in daily device visits after March 13. Of the three, Wendy’s was the only brand to start the month of March with higher than average foot traffic; this may be due to their new breakfast menu, which launched nationwide on March 2.

% Change in Daily Device Visits - Fast Food Burgers

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Dunkin’, Panera Bread, and Starbucks all began the month of March with slightly lower than average daily device visits. Visits to both Dunkin’ and Starbucks spiked between March 12 and 13, before declining further over the following days. In contrast, Panera Bread did not see a similar spike in visitors and daily device visits declined even more dramatically. Daily device visits to all three brands have remained fairly flat since March 21.

Foot Traffic At Dunkin', Panera, And Starbucks


Chick-fil-A was one of just three brands to start the month with higher-than-average daily device visits, but by March 21, visits were 75% lower than average. Daily visits then recovered slightly and remained flat through the end of the month. Taco Bell saw lower-than-average device visits throughout the entire month but, they did see some lift (compared to other brands) on March 31 with its free taco offer.

Foot Traffic At Chick-fil-a, Domino's, Subway, And Taco Bell

Foot Traffic at Fast Food Chains as of March 31

By March 31, daily device visits to the QSRs were between 51% and 77% lower than average. It appears that restaurants with well-established takeout and delivery services, like Subway, Domino’s and Dunkin’, are top-of-mind with consumers when practicing social distancing.

% Change in Daily Device Visits - Selected Restaurants

Have you ordered takeout or delivery from your favorite restaurant lately? What could location intelligence tell you about your business, industry, and the competition? If you’d like to learn more about this study, and how location intelligence can be used for these and other consumer insights, let us know.

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