Restaurant Traffic Upward Momentum Slows in Spring, Stalling Near- and Long-Term Recovery Hopes, Reports NPD

Chicago, August 14, 2012 —The restaurant visit gains this past winter are proving to be the result of a mild winter and not the beginning of a long-hoped-for recovery as industry traffic rose one percent in the spring quarter 2012 (March, April, May) against modest declines in same quarter year ago, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research firm.  With foodservice traffic not gaining upward momentum, consumer confidence sagging, and unemployment still relatively high, NPD has adjusted its industry traffic forecast to flat for the next two years versus the one percent gain originally forecasted for years ending December 2012 and 2013.

The quick service restaurant (fast food) segment, which comprises 78 percent of the industry traffic, kept total industry visits positive with a two percent visit gain in the quarter, according to NPD’s CREST®, which tracks the foodservice industry based on consumer reporting of over 400,000 visits to  foodservice outlets  a year.  In contrast, visits to midscale/family dining and casual dining segments were down three and two percent respectively. 

Source: The NPD Group/CREST®, quarter ending May

Despite a slowdown in foodservice traffic growth, the average eater check of restaurant consumers increased two percent in the spring and overall consumer spending for commercial foodservice increased by nearly three percent despite slowed traffic growth.  The two percent increase in checks lagged behind inflation for food-away-from home, which is up three percent, but it was still the strongest rate of increase in over two years, according to NPD’s CREST foodservice market research.

“Consumers may not be flocking to restaurants in droves, but they are going out, that’s good news,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “We’re also seeing that when they do dine out, they are trying new offerings, spending a little more and not relying totally on deals. However, their continuing cost-consciousness, still relatively high unemployment, and economic uncertainty will keep the industry flat.”

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