U.S. Foodservice Visits Highest in Six Years and Higher Average Eater Checks Pump Up Consumer Spending, Reports NPD

Industry Growth Still Stalled by Quick Service Hamburger Chain, Midscale, and Independent Restaurants

Chicago, July 28, 2015 — Foodservice industry traffic hit its highest level in six years and higher average eater checks fueled a 3 percent increase in consumer spending at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets in the year ending May 2015 compared to year ago, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The good news is tempered, however, by overall stalled traffic growth caused by visit declines at quick service hamburger chain, midscale/family dining, and independent restaurants, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research.

Restaurant and foodservice outlet visits hit the 61.1 billion mark in the year ending May 2015 compared to 60.6 billion visits in year ending May 2010, based on NPD’s ongoing foodservice tracker, CREST®. Although industry traffic volume is higher than it was six years ago, stronger industry traffic growth has been hindered by continuing visit declines at quick service hamburger chain, midscale/family dining, and independent restaurants. Over a five year period, traffic has declined by 3 percent at quick service hamburger chain restaurants and at midscale/family dining restaurants (includes hotel midscale restaurants), and by 2 percent at independent restaurants. 

Total foodservice and restaurant visits were flat in the year ending May 2015 compared to year ago.  Quick service restaurant visits, which include retail and fast casual categories, increased by 1 percent, and casual dining restaurant traffic, which in the prior five years saw visit declines, held stable.  Higher average eater checks were the primary driver of a 3 percent increase in overall consumer spending during the year ending May 2015 period over a year ago.

Morning meal/breakfast continued to grow at the fastest pace among all meal dayparts with a 4 percent jump in visits at all restaurants and foodservice outlets, reports NPD. Quick service restaurants were responsible for most of the visit gains at breakfast, and although overall visits declined at midscale/family dining restaurants, breakfast traffic for this segment held steady. Lunch and dinner visits were flat for the total industry, and traffic at the PM snack daypart declined by 2 percent in year ending May 2015.  

“There are many pockets of growth in the foodservice industry right now, but the areas that have been problematic for several years now, like quick service hamburger chain and family dining restaurants, are preventing real growth in the industry,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “It makes sense that we will be seeing more chain and independent operators leverage the growth areas, like breakfast, in the coming months.” 

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