Total U.S. Restaurant Count at 624,301 Units in Spring 2016, Restaurant Chain Units Hold Steady, and Independent Restaurant Count Declines, Reports NPD Group

Chicago, September 19, 2016 ─ The total U.S. restaurant count stood at 624,301 units in spring 2016, a one percent decrease from spring 2015, based on a restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Total restaurant chain units were flat from last spring at 292,382 and the independent restaurant count declined by 3 percent, according to NPD Group’s spring 2016 ReCount® restaurant census, which includes restaurants open as of March 31, 2016.

Segment System Type Spring 2015 Spring 2016 PCYA*
TOTAL RESTAURANTS ALL 632,572 624,301 -1%
CHAINS 291,794 292,832 0%
INDEPENDENTS 340,778 331,469 -3%

*Percent change from a year ago
Source: The NPD Group/ReCount® Spring 2016

The drop in independent restaurants was concentrated in the full service segment, which includes casual dining, midscale/family dining, and fine dining.  Full service independent units were down 3 percent while quick service independent units declined by 2 percent.  

The overall decline in restaurant counts is a reflection of the stalled traffic growth experienced by the foodservice industry over the past several years. Total U.S. foodservice traffic was flat in the year ending June 2016 compared to year ago.  Visits to independent restaurants, a restaurant system type that is particularly challenged in a soft environment, were down 3 percent.  Major chains posted a one percent gain in traffic while small chain visits were flat, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research, CREST®.  Quick service restaurant visits, which represent 80 percent of total industry traffic, were up 1 percent, family dining and casual dining restaurant traffic declined by 4 and 3 percent respectively.  

“The decline in U.S. restaurant units overall is a reflection of the industry’s stalled traffic growth,” says Greg Starzynski, director- product management, NPD Foodservice.  “Our forecast finds that U.S. foodservice visit growth will be less than one percent in the coming years, which means there will not be significant unit expansion for a while.”  

Editor’s note: ReCount® restaurant counts are available by classification, e.g., Hamburger, Pizza, Casual Dining Bar & Grill, etc. as well as geographical breakdowns, e.g., zip code, city, state, designated market area, census areas, etc.

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