The quarantine diet: People are eating more pizza and chicken wings, boosting sales at Papa John’s and Wingstop as other restaurants face sales slumps

Image
As Americans shelter in place and restaurant sales suffer, Wingstop is thriving. Irene Jiang / Business Insider
  • Wingstop and Papa John’s reported same-store sales grew by more than 26% in April, as other restaurants struggle to overcome the sales slump related to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The National Restaurant Association said in late April that the industry lost $US30 billion in March and was on track to lose $US50 billion in April.
  • In a recent survey, 43% of respondents said that they had increased their use of pizza delivery over the last week.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As Americans shelter in place and restaurant sales suffer, a few chains are thriving.

On Wednesday, Wingstop reported same-store sales were up by more than 30% in April. Papa John’s had similarly cheery earnings the same day, with same-store sales up 26.9% in April.

Even in late March, when restaurant sales were the lowest across the industry, wings and pizza remained popular. Wingstop said its sales were up 8.9% in the second half of March. Papa John’s reported at the end of March that its same-store sales were “negatively impacted by the cancellation of large gatherings,” but that sales were up 3.6% in the last month.

Papa Johns supreme pizza 14

These sales explosions are in stark contrast to the rest of the restaurant industry.

While fast-food chains have generally weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than the industry as a whole, chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell said that sales dropped by 20% to 35% in late March.

Restaurants without drive-thrus faced an even more dire financial situation. Waffle House’s same-store sales dropped by 70% to 80% in late March at locations that remained open, the company told Business Insider. The Cheesecake Factory saw similar declines, with sales down roughly 75% before beginning to recover in April.

The National Restaurant Association said in late April that the industry lost $US30 billion in March and was on track to lose $US50 billion in April.

Wingstop wings 11

Wingstop and Papa John’s, as well as other delivery-centric pizza chains, have cashed in on customers sheltering in place. Americans were already familiar with the chains’ to-go business, and companies had the necessary infrastructure in place to ramp up sales, with an emphasis on digital ordering.

Wingstop said on Wednesday that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, off-premise already made up 80% of sales. Now, all of the chain’s business is to-go and delivery, with digital sales growing to 65% from 40% of sales.

Even as chains across the board push to-go and delivery offers, customers seem to be craving some foods more than others. A whopping 43% of respondents to a Gordon Haskett survey of more than 300 households said that they had increased their use of pizza delivery in the week ending May 1 – the highest percentage since analysts began surveying people on pizza orders in February.