Chains Keep Restaurant Traffic Stable While Visits to Independents Decline in Second Quarter, Reports NPD

Chicago, September 2, 2014 —The strength and marketing clout of major and small restaurant chains kept total restaurant industry traffic flat instead of declining in the April/May/June quarter while visits to independent restaurants declined by 2 percent, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Visits to major restaurant chains* remained flat in the second calendar quarter compared to same quarter year ago and small restaurant chain* traffic increased by 2 percent, according to NPD foodservice market research.

Chains outperformed independents over the short- and long-term the past five years, reports NPD’s CREST® research, which tracks daily how consumers use restaurants and foodservice outlets. Major restaurant chains, which currently represent 64 percent of total industry traffic, have increased visits 1 percent since quarter ending June 2010. Traffic to small chains, which represent 11 percent of industry traffic, netted flat over the past five years based on quarters ending June. Independents, which now represent 25 percent of foodservice visits versus 28 percent in 2010, saw visit losses of 2 percent since 2010.

The Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) segment, which overall holds the majority share (79 percent) of foodservice industry traffic, is heavily skewed towards chains. Visits to QSR chain restaurants (major and small) were up 1 percent, respectively, in the second quarter ending June 2014. Independent QSR traffic was down 2 percent in quarter compared to same quarter year ago.

Total independent restaurants outnumber chain restaurants in terms of unit count. Based on NPD’s most recent ReCount® restaurant census (spring 2014) there were 351,359 independent restaurants in the U.S., a 0.4 percent increase of the prior year census. Chain restaurant units stood at 284,135, which is up 1 percent compared to last year’s census.

“Independents simply don’t have the resources and marketing power, and often not the business acumen, of chains,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “However, many independents do succeed by providing the food quality and experience consumers are looking for and by building a loyal customer base.

**Definition of major chains, small chains, and independents – major chains have 500+ units; small chains have 3 to 49 units; and independents 1 to 2.

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