Chicago, May 12, 2022 — Despite bearing the brunt of the pandemic dining room lockdowns and restrictions, independent restaurants with one to two locations still represent 53% of total restaurants in the U.S., reports The NPD Group. Independent restaurant locations declined by 8% or 28,399 units in 2020 but grew by 1% or 2,893 units by late 2021, according to NPD’s Fall 2021 ReCount® restaurant census, which counts restaurants opened as of September 30, 2021. Independent locations are growing in seven of the nine Census divisions and large urban areas like Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Seattle-Tacoma.
Another sign of recovery is independent restaurant operators who purchase enough volume to order from broadline foodservice distributors have increased their spending and orders. Independent operators increased cases of food and supplies ordered from leading broadline distributors by 27% in the 12 months ending March 2022 compared to the same period a year ago, which is 5% above the pre-pandemic level in the period ending March 2019. Dollars shipped from broadline foodservice distributors to independents were up 47% in the year ending March 2022 compared to the same period a year ago, a 25% increase compared to the pre-pandemic period in the 12 months ending March 2019, reports NPD’s SupplyTrack service.
Consumer online and physical visits to independent restaurants increased by 12% in the 12 months ending March compared to the same period a year ago and are now 7% below the pre-pandemic level in the 12 months ending March 2019. In the same period, visits to independent full service restaurants, representing about 63% of all independent restaurants, were up 19% compared to the year ending March 2021, resulting in a 14% decline from the year ending March 2019 before the pandemic. Quick service independent restaurant traffic increased by 5% in the 12 months ending March 2022 compared to a year ago and was up 1% from the pre-pandemic level in the 12 months ending March 2019.
“The pandemic lockdowns and restrictions were particularly tough for Independent restaurant operators since they have fewer resources and capital than chains to withstand tougher times,” says David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry Advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Some independents didn’t make it, but many did, and they are thriving and contributing to the overall vibrancy of the U.S. foodservice market.”