Customer visits to restaurants and other foodservice outlets in Canada rise 11% year-over-year in Q1, while spending rises 18%, according to Circana data

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TORONTO , June 1, 2023 (press release) –

—Foodservice customer visits and spending increased by double-digits  

Canada’s foodservice 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 foodservice outlets increased by 11%, and spending grew by 18% in the quarter ending March compared to a year ago. 

“Foodservice traffic has been on an upward trend over the past two years,” says Vince Sgabellone, Circana foodservice industry analyst. “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 growth driver has been the significant gain in on-premises, dine-in visits. Dine-in visits jumped by 59% 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 foodservice visits, 66%, these visits declined by 5% in the reporting period.   

Shifting behaviors, like more people returning to worksites or out-of-home routines, have helped to increase foodservice visits throughout the day, particularly at the breakfast and A.M. snack periods. While all dayparts grew in the first quarter, the morning meal daypart increased visits by 13% and currently holds the largest daypart traffic share. Lunch and dinner daypart visits grew by 10%, and P.M. snack grew by 8% in the quarter versus a year ago, reports Circana.    

Although full service restaurants had the most traffic growth, a 24% gain, quick service restaurants held a 67% share of all foodservice visits and increased visits by 9% in the quarter. Full service traffic represented a 22% share of visits. Retail foodservice, like prepared foods at convenience and grocery stores, defines the remainder of traffic share, and visits to these outlets were down 5% 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,” says Sgabellone. “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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