Despite a Decline in Unit Count, U.S. Independent Restaurants Still Represent Over Half of Commercial Restaurant Units and Are Forecast to Spend $39 Billion in 2018

Chicago, May 21, 2018 —There is a flipside to the gloomy news about independent restaurants in the U.S., according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. While the number of independent restaurant units in the U.S. dropped by 3 percent, 346,105 independent restaurants remained opened, which represents over half of the 647,288 commercial restaurant units in the U.S., based on NPD’s Fall 2017 ReCount® restaurant census. Independent commercial restaurant operators are forecast to spend about $39 billion with foodservice manufacturers and broadline foodservice distributors in 2018 and will represent 15 percent of total restaurant operator spend, according to NPD’s Foodservice Future Views, which sizes operator spend by foodservice markets and product categories.

Restaurant visits overall have been flat to declining for the last several years and visits to independent restaurants have declined by 2 percent over the last five years. In the quarter ending March 2018, independent traffic declined by 1 percent and total restaurant visits and chain traffic were flat compared to same period year ago. Still there were 60.5 billion total foodservice visits made in the year ending March and 13 billion of those visits were made to independent restaurants.

Another sign that there are independent restaurants doing well is that independent operators purchasing enough volume to order from broadline foodservice distributors have been increasing their spending and orders with broadline foodservice distributors. Independent operators, who represent a third of broadline foodservice distribution dollars, increased their purchases with leading broadline distributors by 2 percent and cases ordered by 2 percent in the quarter ending March 2018 compared to same quarter year ago, reports NPD.

“If restaurant chains are the backbone of the U.S. foodservice industry then independent restaurants are the heart because they are individuals who went into the business for the love of it,” says Warren Solochek, NPD’s senior vice president, industry relations. “Independent restaurant operators do face different challenges than chains since they have less resources and capital to withstand tougher times, but there are many that are thriving and contributing to the overall vibrancy of the U.S. foodservice market.”

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