U.S. fast food and other limited service restaurants did not only get through the pandemic better than the restaurant industry as a whole - in high inflation times, affordable fast food has also been seeing steadily growing sales while other restaurant types could not uphold their post-pandemic growth trajectory. In June, the latest month on record with the Census Bureau, quick service restaurant sales grew by 14.4 percent, while those of other restaurants were down to 9.2 percent year-over-year.
Sales of limited service restaurants - which were well equipped to pandemic lifestyles due to their emphasis on take-out and drive-thru experiences - did not dip as much in 2020 as those of regular restaurants did. By the spring of 2021, other restaurant sales had once more overtaken fast food sales and stayed on a higher growth trajectory after leaving pandemic effects behind. In June, however, other restaurant sales slipped by almost $1.7 billion compared to May, while limited service restaurant sales only decreased by $150 million.
According to Bloomberg, drive-thru services have been aiding fast food chains as they stayed popular beyond the pandemic. In February, U.S. drive-thru sales were 20 percent higher than they had been in the same month two years earlier. Industry publication QSR is even speaking of a new "golden age of fast food" as sales and restaurant numbers are expanding in the sector, while also acknowledging headwinds like the hiring crunch.