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Food Service Industry Updates

This Growing Daypart Is a Clear Opportunity for Restaurant Operators

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Consumers are snacking more at restaurants.

Although total U.S. restaurant traffic has been down across dayparts for most of last year and through February of this year, late-afternoon and after-dinner snack visits — what the restaurant industry calls the “p.m. snack daypart” — have increased, according to a report from The NPD Group. Consumer visits to restaurants during the p.m. snack period, which ranges from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., increased by 5% in January and 3% in February compared to the same months last year.

The p.m. snack daypart also gained a 3% increase in share of occasions in the last calendar quarter of 2020 while every other daypart posted declines, according to NPD’s daily tracking of how consumers use restaurants.

The top growing reasons consumers give for visiting during the p.m. snack period are the quality of food and desire for a treat, NPD found. “The kids like it there,” “regularly go there” and “had a special taste or craving” were all given as reasons for a p.m. snack visit. Their restaurants of choice tended to be quick-service restaurant chains. More substantial meal offerings, like pizza and burgers, have been performing best at p.m. snack, reports NPD.

“Because of the pandemic and the disruption of our normal commuting patterns and daily routines, we have more flexibility in deciding when and what to eat, and p.m. snack is the beneficiary of this fluidity,” says David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry Advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “This growing daypart is a clear opportunity for restaurant operators.”  

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