US restaurants business steadily warmed up since the darkestdays of the COVID-19 pandemic in April until the recent surge incases put eating out on a backburner, according to a new reportfrom NPD Group.

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Customer transactions at major restaurant chains dipped to -13%year over year for the week ending June 21, the market researchcompany said. That compares with -12% YOY for the week prior.

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"This is the first time since the week ending April 12 there hasnot been an improvement in the year-over-year trend," NPD Groupsaid in its report.

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Part of the decrease from week to week resulted from Father'sDay, which the report noted typically "is more of a backyard BBQoccasion than a restaurant dining event."

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The same week also saw more restaurants allowed to emerge fromgovernment shutdown and capacity limitations; however, those looserrestrictions came during the recent surge in cases. The surge alsocontributed to the softer transactions number, NPD said.

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Looking at individual states, transactions dropped 5 points inArizona, where the surge in cases has been widely reported, andNorth Carolina. Nevada dropped 4 points, and Florida declined 2.Transaction numbers in Texas and California remained flat. Numbersfor other states were not provided.

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By restaurant type, full service locations were down -24% YOYthe week ending June 21. That was up slightly from the prior week's-26% decline. Quick service restaurants were down -12% YOY and down-11% YOY for the week ending June 14.

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These numbers indicate restaurants recovery will not continuewith the steady gains they had been biting back since April, saidDavid Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor.

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"The US restaurant industry's road to recovery is going to havesome bumps along the way," Portalatin said. "The pandemic isn'tover and, as often mentioned, is 'unprecedented' so there is noroad map. The foodservice industry is solidly in the restart phaseas restaurants begin to reopen on-premise operations, adopt andimplement new procedures and protocols, and keep plans fluidbecause things could change quickly."

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Restaurants took a massive hit when the COVID-19 hit U.S. shoresas stay-home orders and restrictions on non-essential businessesclosed dining rooms around the country. Venerable children'sfavorite Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurants filed for bankruptcy,highlighting the struggles of retail ascustomers deal with social distancing and concerns over catchingthe coronavirus.

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Elsewhere in the restaurant industry, some household namesalready had issues before the outbreakbegan, and those have been exacerbated.

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As for these restaurants' and other retailers' real estate,that's expected to adapt during and after thepandemic. More eateries and shops now offer online ordering andcarryout, tables sit farther apart to account for socialdistancing, and outdoor dining is more common.

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Thomas Phillips

Thomas Phillips is part of the social media team at ALM Media.