The 2020 elections are bad news for restaurants hoping to get more customers to visit.
BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said in a note on Friday that he expects restaurant industry traffic to continue its negative trend in 2020. And, according to Saleh, the decline could be even steeper as people stay in to watch political debates and the summer Olympics.
“As we saw the last time around in 2016, we believe these events could present a significant distraction from restaurant visits, which has negative implications for most of casual dining given their dependence on in-restaurant sales,” Saleh said. “Additionally, we expect elevated media inflation this year from the presidential election, as candidates battle for voter attention on national television.”
Saleh said that he estimates traffic will be negatively impacted by an additional 100 to 150 basis points, as people “opt for their couch vs. a restaurant dining room.”
Restaurant industry consultant Malcolm Knapp told Business Insider earlier this year that political anxiety is also feeding into the move toward eating at home. While the rise of delivery is typically portrayed as a desire for convenience, Knapp says that many people retreated into their homes following the recession to escape the worries of daily life.
“Going out is a more precious thing than it was,” Knapp said. “It’s not a disappointment. It’s a loss. And people get angry about loss.”
While declining traffic is a problem for many chains, BTIG’s Saleh said casual dining chains such as Applebee’s and TGI Fridays in particular are likely to be hit hardest.
Meanwhile, delivery-centric pizza chains including Domino’s and Papa John’s are set to benefit. Saleh also highlighted Chipotle as a top pick, thanks to menu innovation and digital sales growth.