U.S. Restaurant Industry Will End 2013 with Visits Flat and Consumer Spending Up

—NPD Forecasts Spending and Traffic Growth in 2014 

Chicago, December 17, 2013 — Consumers didn’t increase their visits to restaurants in 2013, but when they did visit they spent more, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. NPD’s continual foodservice tracking shows restaurant traffic flat for the bulk of the year compared to last year, and forecasts the year will end the same. Consumer spending, on the other hand, was up 2 percent over year ago driven by growth in average check size.

Visits to quick service restaurants (QSRs) overall, which were up 1 percent in the year ending September compared to a year ago, was a growth area for the industry in 2013, according to NPD’s CREST® foodservice market research. Gourmet coffee, donut, and bagel QSR restaurants drove much of the visit growth at QSR.  QSR fast casual continued its growth trend this year with traffic up 8 percent in the year ending September 2013 compared to same period year ago.  Breakfast was the strongest daypart for restaurants with visits increasing by 2 percent in the period.  

An area offsetting industry growth in 2013 is the ongoing struggle of full service restaurants, casual dining, and midscale/family dining, which, despite aggressive dealing, haven’t realized annual visit gains in several years. Weekday visits to all restaurants was another area lacking visit increases this year. While visits were up 1 percent on the weekends, weekday traffic was flat in the year ending September versus year ago.  Millennials and families with kids were two groups that cutback on their visits to restaurants in 2013.  For example, annual per capita visits of ages 25-34 went from 251 in 2008 to 207 in 2013.  Visits by families with kids declined by 1 percent in the year ending September 2013 tracking period.

NPD forecasts a better year for the foodservice industry in 2014 with visits up 1 percent and a spending gain of 3 percent by the end of next year. The QSR restaurant segment, particularly the QSR categories of gourmet coffee, donut, and fast casual, will continue to do well in 2014. 

“Although consumers are expected to be cautious about their spending in the coming years, our forecast for traffic and dollar growth for 2014 shows improved performance compared to 2013,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Despite overall industry demand holding steady, there will always be winners…or those who can win the battle for market share.”

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