Share of limited-service restaurants in rural counties doubled from 1990 to 2019

Vertical bar chart showing the change in U.S. restaurant shares in rural counties from 1990 to 2019

The food-away-from-home retail landscape continues to evolve. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers recently examined the changing food-away-from-home landscape in nonmetropolitan counties between 1990 and 2019, with a focus on the most rural counties. As of 1990, full-service restaurants were the most common restaurant type, making up 76 percent of all food-away-from-home establishments in these counties. However, over the last several decades, this composition has shifted. While full-service restaurants remain the most common in rural counties, their prominence has fallen from about 75 percent of establishments to about 50 percent of establishments in 2019. By contrast, quick-service restaurants have become increasingly popular. Quick-service restaurants accounted for 18 percent of the total number of establishments in rural counties in 1990 but have since doubled, making up 36 percent of all food-away-from-home establishments in 2019. This shift could affect overall food options available for consumers in these rural areas. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Rural Food-Away-from-Home Landscape, 1990–2019, released in March 2023.

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