April 28, 2020

Are we at the bottom of the COVID-19 crisis?

I am sure that most of you, like us, are trying to understand the very fluid dynamics of the foodservice industry in an effort to judge the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Foodservice Equipment and Supplies industry. A key question now is whether we are at the bottom of this crisis. With three data points from yesterday, there may be reason for optimism that we have seen the worst and we can all focus on the recovery.  

AQ ACTIVITY AND QUOTING VOLUME DATA

First is the activity and volume data from the AQ platform.  Keep in mind that the AQ Platform has visibility to all foodservice sectors, not just restaurants. We observed the last “normal” week as the week commencing March 2, 2020. In each successive week following, we saw decreases in user activity – until we got to the week of March 30, when activity flattened out.  Since then, user activity has been increasing.  For the week ending April 26, user activity was up 3%.  Admittedly, activity was still down 25% from March 2. However, that is up from the apparent bottom in the week of April 6 when it was down 36%. 

We show the volume graph below. It depicts the percent change of weekly quoting volume from the week of March 2. This includes all geographic regions. It is pleasing to see a 15% uptick for this past week. 

AQ data suggests we are at the bottom of the COVID-19 crisis in FES

 

RESTAURANT DATA FROM THE NPD GROUP

Our second data point comes fromThe NPD Group, which focuses on the restaurant sector.  According to Datassential, the restaurant sector represented 58% of operator spend in 2019. Thus it serves as a great reference point for foodservice as a wholePer the NPD report:  

“Likely buoyed by the coronavirus relief payments received from the government, consumers increased their restaurant transactions in the week ending April 19 relative to week ending April 12, easing the previous weeks’ declines. Although the industry is still at historic lows compared to year ago, restaurant customer transactions declined by 36% compared to a 43% decline the prior week.  Transactions at quick service restaurants, which are still the most resilient segment of the industry, declined 34% in the week ending April 19 compared to year ago. Even the significantly challenged full-service restaurant segment received a little relief, declining 72% in the week versus a 79% decline prior week.  The rate of decline for casual dining full-service chains improved 12 points from a decline of 77% in the week ending April 12 to 65% the week ending April 19.” 

Another ray of hope that we may be at the bottom of the crisis.   

NEW RESTAURANT CONSTRUCTION DATA FROM CONSTRUCTCONNECT

Our third data point comes from ConstructConnect, one of the leading construction document repositories in the US. According to their data, in the 30-day period ending yesterday, there were 2,900 restaurant projects in the planning phase with an update in the last 90 days and 1,730 restaurant projects that had a significant update in the last 30 days. There were only 75 projects that had a date change due to the COVID-19 crisis, or 2.6% of the 90-day active project total.  Even more positive, there were 471 new restaurant projects filed in the past 30 days (which includes new builds, renovations, and reconfigurations).   

This is an evolving situation. These recent upticks may be fueled by government stimulus that will not last forever. Further pressure will certainly mount from increased unemployment. However, as more states announce the staged reopening of their economies, office and industrial workers plan their return to the workplace, and restaurants experiment with opening their dining rooms, I think there is reason for optimism. We are all in this together – we’ll get there. 

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For ongoing coverage of our industry data tracking, please visit our State of the Industry page. Learn more about what we are doing to support our employees and customers as part of our AQ Cares program. 

Jim Contardi - CEO

Jim is the Chief Executive Officer of AQ. Jim’s leadership style is molded by more than 20 years of working with and helping grow remarkable teams. With a career in technology, he brings a clear understanding of how to leverage technology to solve problems and improve operations on behalf of customers.

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