The coronavirus pandemic is splitting the restaurant industry in two. Big, well capitalized chains like

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.

and

Domino’s Pizza Inc.

are gaining customers and adding stores while tens of thousands of local eateries go bust.

Larger operators generally have the advantages of more capital, more leverage on lease terms, more physical space, more geographic flexibility and prior expertise with drive-throughs, carryout and delivery. A similarly uneven recovery is unfolding across the business world as big firms have tended to fare far better during the pandemic than small rivals, thinning the ranks of entrepreneurs who could eventually become major U.S. employers. In the retail world, bigger chains like

Walmart Inc.

and

Target Corp.

are posting strong sales while many small shops struggle to stay open.

The divide between large and small restaurants surfaced in the summer. Chipotle more than tripled its online business sales in the second quarter while Domino’s,

Papa John’s International Inc.

and

Wingstop Inc.

all reported double-digit same-store sales increases in the third quarter compared with the year-earlier period. McDonald’s also said U.S. same-store sales rose 4.6% in the third quarter. That included a rise in the low double digits during September, its best monthly performance in nearly a decade. It credited faster drive-throughs and promotions.

Off Menu

People are spending less than during the last recession at restaurants, particularly smaller independent ones, straining the finances of many businesses.

U.S. restaurant consumer spending, change from previous year

U.S. food service sales,

change from previous year

Small U.S. businesses’ default rate on loans and leases

Accommodations

and food services

Small U.S. businesses’ default rate on loans and leases

U.S. restaurant consumer spending, change from previous year

U.S. food service sales, change from previous year

Accommodations

and food services

U.S. restaurant consumer spending, change from previous year