This Report covers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on foodservice industry trends, consumer attitudes, preferences and behaviors. Market performance and opportunities in the short, medium and longer term are discussed.


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

Limited service restaurants (LSRs) – These establishments provide food services in which customers usually select and order items and pay before dining. Food/drink may be consumed on the premises, offered as carryout or delivered to the customer’s location. They may also sell alcoholic beverages. LSRs include both QSRs and fast casual restaurants. The other category within LSRs (as seen in the Market Size and Forecast) includes snacks and non-alcoholic beverage bars, cafeterias, grills and grill buffets.

  • Quick service restaurants (QSRs) – Used interchangeably with “fast food,” QSRs specialize in inexpensive, convenient meals. There is no waiter service and they offer no alcoholic beverages and a low price point. Examples include: McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut.

  • Fast casual restaurants – These establishments are characterized by a higher price point than QSRs, though not as high as FSRs. Fast casuals do not offer waiter service and may or may not serve alcohol. Examples include: Chipotle, Panera Bread, Shake Shack and Blaze Pizza.

Full service restaurants (FSRs) – These establishments have waiter/waitress service in which customers order and are served while seated. These may also sell alcoholic beverages and offer carryout services. They include the restaurant segments: midscale, casual dining and fine dining.

  • Family midscale restaurants, used interchangeably with family dining restaurants, offer the lowest check size of any FSR. A majority of midscales do not serve alcohol, though some may have a limited alcohol selection – just beer and wine. Midscale examples include Denny’s, Cracker Barrel and IHOP. Buffet restaurants are classified as midscale restaurants (eg Golden Corral).

  • Casual dining restaurants represent the largest segment of the FSR market. Casual dining restaurants have higher pricing than family/midscales but lower than fine dining, and they offer a full bar. Examples include Chili’s, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse.

  • Fine dining restaurants have the highest price point of all FSRs.

Economic assumptions

Our economic assumptions are based on global forecasts released by the IMF on April 14, 2020. The IMF expects US GDP to fall by 5.9% in 2020 and recover to 4.7% growth in 2021. Our unemployment estimate comes from CBO projections released May 19, 2020, which indicate a sharp rise to 15.1% in Q2 2020, remaining high through Q3 before recovering slightly to 11.5% by the end of the year, with a 9.3% rate for 2021. The current uncertainty means there is wide variation in the forecasts.

COVID-19: US context

This Report was written in May 2020.

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic; on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US. 

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, and nonessential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations. At the time of writing, all 50 states have relaxed or are beginning to relax restrictions, allowing businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place.  

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