US on-premise transactions fall 24% as COVID-19 impact spreads

Latest sales figures and consumer data from Chicago-based research consultancy Nielsen CGA reveal that US bars and restaurants saw point of sale (POS) transactions drop by a quarter, as the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced on-premise engagement.

Data from Nielsen CGA’s Check-Level Insights Pool (CLIP), which consists of over 10,000 transaction-level POS feeds, shows that check-level transactions were down by 24% in the two weeks to 7 March, compared to the same period last year. Average outlet sales dropped by around $28,000.

Impacts are particularly significant in populous states like New York, where checks have dropped 29%. In hard-hit Washington State, sales declined by 31%, equating to an average loss of $17,000 for every outlet per week. Average outlet sales fell by $40,000 in California.

Meanwhile, Nielsen CGA’s consumer research found that over a third (38%) of American consumers had been out less than usual—and nearly half (47%) planned to go out less in the next two weeks.

“But with 40% of people remaining positive that they would like to continue to visit and enjoy for bars and restaurants as usual, there are signs of deep-rooted support for going-out,” said. Scott Elliott, Senior Vice President at Nielsen CGA.

“With much of the US no longer traveling into city centres for work or leisure, consumers are focusing more on using neighbourhood bars and restaurants. Around a fifth (23%) of consumers say they have been staying local when going out to eat and drink in the last two weeks, while two in five (40%) have avoided city centres and busy places. Average sales have dropped by 24% in areas of very high density of population—but notably less (17%) in areas with low density, namely the suburbs,” Elliott added.


The consumer figures are based on survey results in four states—New York, California, Illinois and Florida—over last weekend (Friday 13 to Monday 16 March).

As concerns about COVID-19 intensify and restrictions on out-of-home behavior increase, on-premise impacts are likely to increase dramatically, Nielsen CGA, which is part of the CGA group, will be providing regular bi-weekly updates.

“These figures confirm the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on bars and restaurants across the US. With so many outlets now closing on-premise consumption, things are going to get worse before they get better. However, our research shows that consumers are still keen to enjoy the on-premise if at all possible. Appealing for customer support through gift card schemes, taking every piece of available government support, and flexing operations to an off-premise offering wherever possible are all key over the coming weeks.

Ours is a supremely resilient and adaptable sector, and we must hope that operators can ride out these enormous challenges and—with government and enduring customer support—bounce back quickly when the crisis eventually eases,” added Elliott.

The full COVID-19 On-Premise Impact Report is available free of charge. Figures are based on Nielsen CGA’s Check-Level Insights Pool and survey of 1,600 on-premise consumers. For more information about sales impact analysis and research sources, please contact Matthew Crompton via

For GB coverage, visit CGA’s dedicate COVID-19 page here

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