With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated, local restaurants are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as reservations surge — yet most fast food chains have been slow to embrace indoor dining again, even with new COVID-19 infections on the decline.
Part of the issue lies with pandemic-era dining trends, which became entrenched during lockdowns. During that period, takeout and app-based ordering were embraced by consumers and restaurants alike: In fact, McDonald's (MCD) just this week announced a new digital loyalty program that will begin on July 8.
Yet with newly vaccinated denizens eager to dine out again, data suggests food chains might be hurting themselves by keeping their dining rooms shuttered. Most continue to be guided by local regulations, which are slowly being relaxed as vaccinated populations hit a certain threshold.
During the month of April of 2021, visits at Starbucks (SBUX) were down 4.2 percent compared to 2019, Panera Bread saw a decline of 17.6 percent, whereas Dunkin' saw the same exact of amount of visitors as 2019, according to foot traffic intelligence platform Placer.ai.
This comes as restaurants and eateries around the country are flinging open their dining room doors. Yet in key markets, Popeye's, McDonald's, Chipotle (CMG) and Yum! Brands (YUM) have been slow to embrace the old status quo.
Starbucks was among the first wave to relax masking guidelines for vaccinated customers, but has yet to re-open its plush in-store seating in most places that allowed patrons to nurse handcrafted drinks over laptops and cellphones for hours on end.
In-store eating at Shake Shack (SHAK) locations has been open in New York City and elsewhere in limited capacity, but depends on guidance given by the local communities, according to the company. Mask mandates are in accordance with CDC guidance including that vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks.