Americans skipping fast food amid coronavirus pandemic: report

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to fewer people eating out, according to Foursquare

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In the early days of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, fast food restaurants saw a boost in foot traffic, but that trend has sharply reversed as the virus spread into a pandemic, according to Foursquare.

The data technology company found a “steep decline in visits’ to quick-service restaurants of about 10 percent starting around March 13-14, when President Trump declared a national state of emergency because of the virus. Foot traffic to the restaurants has continued to decline since, according to the company.

Lucy Kwak paints a sign on the window of a fast food chain's restaurant indicating that the drive-thru window is still open as well as a takeout option during the coronavirus outbreak in Garden Grove, Calif., Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris

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“Heeding advice from authorities to ‘distance socially’ and stay home except for essential activity, Americans are changing their behaviors considerably, with the patterns we saw last week becoming even more pronounced, country-wide,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Foursquare also found a decline in visits to sit-down dining chains since the start of the outbreak. From the week ending Feb. 19 to the week ending March 20, foot traffic dropped 47 percent, which the company attributed to social distancing.

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Frisch's Big Boy restaurant employee Nicole Cox bags up an order of toilet paper, among in-demand items including milk and bread the double-decker burger chain is now offering during the coronavirus outbreak in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Dan Sewell)

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The decline has forced many restaurants to take drastic action. Many workers have been laid off or furloughed. Some restaurants have resorted to selling “dining bonds” in order to raise funds. Waffle House, which is used by some experts to gauge the severity of natural disasters, has closed hundreds of locations.

It’s been a totally different story for grocery stores and warehouse stores. They have seen steep increases in traffic, with warehouse stores peaking from March 13-17, according to Foursquare. Foot traffic to warehouse stores remains up 29 percent over the past month.

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In this March 11, 2020 file photo, tables are empty at Eden Wok in New Rochelle, N.Y. (AP Photo/Chris Ehrmann)

Grocery stores spiked even more after the president declared a state of emergency. Foot traffic was up 34 percent over the past month, according to Foursquare.

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