By Martha C. White
December 23, 2014

The winter holidays are the biggest time of the year for retailers, but while Americans are hitting the malls and shopping with abandon, there’s one place where they’re not spending money: restaurants.

According to new data from customer relationship management company Thanx, Inc., revenue at fast food and fast casual restaurants as well as fine-dining eateries plummets by anywhere from 22% to 45% between Thanksgiving and the New Year. In December, restaurants experienced, on average, a 27% revenue decline compared to that year’s monthly average.

“It’s easy to assume that everyone wins during the holidays – but these can be lean times for most restaurants,” Zach Goldstein, Thanx’s CEO and founder, said in a statement.

Other companies that analyze the industry also see a similar pattern.

“We tend to see traffic go down a little bit after Thanksgiving,” says Warren Solochek, vice president of business development for foodservice research at market research firm the NPD Group. “There is this traditional slowdown… There’s definitely seasonality to the restaurant industry.”

He says his company doesn’t observe as much of a drop as Thanx’s findings show, but restaurant sales do take a post-Thanksgiving dip. “People drop a lot of money on gifts right around Thanksgiving, then they go, ‘OK, I have to be a little more conservative,'” he says.

Solochek adds that another big factor impacting restaurants’ bottom lines during the holidays is the weather. Snowstorms prompt people to stay indoors and shop online from home instead of going shopping and then stopping somewhere for a bite to eat.

The impact is different for different kinds of restaurants, he says. “You see it much more from full-service restaurants than you do from quick-service restaurants.”

Solochek says restaurants try a variety of promotions and marketing tricks to stay on diners’ radar during this hectic time of year, and they advertise these promotions more heavily. “During that five week time period, it really becomes more of a share of wallet kind of thing,” he says. Americans’ discretionary income is stretched thin these days by rising prices and stagnant wages, so restaurants have to battle it out for their slice of a shrinking pie.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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