The restaurant industry has had a pretty rough year. Both locally-owned and big chain restaurants have seen a decrease in sales thanks to COVID-19, but the good news is that things seem to have improved since that big shutdown back in March.

A new study from Top Agency took a look at how casual dining chains have been faring over the course of the past several months and what the most popular restaurants are in each state. The article reads:

"Earlier this summer, we examined the re-rise of carhops and the staying power of fast food during a nationwide pandemic. As a follow up, we wanted to see how some of America’s most popular casual dining chains are fairing in each state, as well as how sit down friendly restaurants are performing against their grab and go counterparts."

The study found that there has been a 58% decrease in traffic at casual dining chains since the pandemic began. In comparison, fast food places have only seen a 30% decrease.

Here in Iowa, the dining chains that people have been returning to are Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, Applebee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Perkin's, in that order. Texas Roadhouse was the most popular casual dining chain that people have been returning to overall, coming in first place in 15 states. That could be because of their bottomless rolls with cinnamon butter, but I think it could also be because of what the Texas Roadhouse CEO did early into the pandemic. According to People, Kent Taylor donated his yearly salary and bonus (around $800,000) so that they wouldn't have to lay anybody off and employees could still get paid. In addition to that, he also gave another $5 million to the employee emergency fund Andy’s Outreach. I personally made a point to order carryout from the Cedar Rapids location when I found out. It's an easy decision to support a business when you know that it's being run by people who actually care about their employees.

You can see more results from the study by Top Agency HERE.

Have you been visiting any casual dining chains recently? Let us know in the comments below!