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Quick-Service Restaurants See an 11% Traffic Boost From Coronavirus

By Rhian Hunt - Updated Mar 20, 2020 at 1:17PM

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Fast-food outlets offering chicken seem to be doing the best.

While the coronavirus pandemic has made the revenues of many dine-in restaurants drop like a rock, new research suggests quick-service restaurants (QSRs), otherwise known as fast-food restaurants, are making bank during the outbreak. Among the biggest beneficiaries, according to, are Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG 1.70%), Popeyes (QSR 0.18%), and privately held Chick-fil-A. Other big QSR brands saw more modest gains, according to and Foursquare.

According to Foursquare, QSR foot traffic rose 11% from mid-February to mid-March across the United States. Even in big cities with significant outbreaks, such as New York City, traffic climbed 9%.

A Popeyes storefront.

Image source: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

Chicken seems to be the most popular fast food during the pandemic, with Popeyes posting weekly year-over-year growth as high as 47.5%. Chick-fil-A saw gains north of 20% in February, dropping to around 10% year over year so far in March. Chipotle Mexican Grill also saw visits rise by 20% in February, with slightly more muted but still robust March figures.

McDonald's (MCD 2.14%), Burger King, and Starbucks (SBUX 2.03%) also saw traffic gains year over year in February and March. However, these have proven to be much more modest, mostly under 5%. This still compares favorably to casual dining, which endured an 11% traffic slump during the same timeframe. Bars witnessed a 4% drop in visits overall, with loss of traffic in COVID-19-vulnerable cities plunging much faster, 7% in New York and a whopping 15% in San Francisco. So far, quick-service chains, especially those offering significant chicken menu items, appear to be the most popular food and beverage destinations for hungry people attempting to avoid infection.

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Stocks Mentioned

Restaurant Brands International Inc. Stock Quote
Restaurant Brands International Inc.
$50.38 (0.18%) $0.09
McDonald's Corporation Stock Quote
McDonald's Corporation
$233.91 (2.14%) $4.91
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Stock Quote
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
$1,294.11 (1.70%) $21.62
Starbucks Corporation Stock Quote
Starbucks Corporation
$73.39 (2.03%) $1.46

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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