Did COVID-19 kill casual dining?


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on everything from our work and school schedules to live sports and even the way we greet our friends and neighbors. Not surprisingly, this so-called new normal has also significantly altered American’s dining habits.

Earlier this summer, we examined the re-rise of carhops and the staying power of fast food during a nationwide pandemic.

As a follow up, we wanted to see how some of America’s most popular casual dining chains are fairing in each state, as well as how sit down friendly restaurants are performing against their grab and go counterparts.  

  • Fast Food Reigns Supreme: Since COVID-19 gripped the nation’s conscience in March and April, fast food has consistently outperformed traditional sit down restaurants in terms of customer visits. On Average, casual dining has seen 58% less traffic since the start of the pandemic, whereas fast food restaurants have only experienced a 30% decrease
  • Apps, Carbs, Red Meat, Oh My: By and large, casual dining staples Applebees, Chilis, and Olive Garden and chain steakhouses like Texas Roadhouse are dominating America’s return to well-known sit down restaurants. 
  • Risking it for the biscuit?: The two most popular casual dining restaurants in our COVID-dominated world (Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse) are universally known for their everlasting supply of free bread!