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 Placer.ai, are Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), Popeyes (NYSE:QSR), and privately held Chick-fil-A. Other big QSR brands saw more modest gains, according to Placer.ai 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 (NYSE:MCD), Burger King, and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) 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.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.