Foodservice Equipment Reports

NPD Forecasts Slight Uptick In Traffic Next Year

Visits to restaurants in the United States have remained essentially flat for the first three quarters of 2011, NPD Group reported Dec. 6, though small increases in check averages have boosted overall spending slightly each quarter. The Port Washington, N.Y.-based consumer research firm, which tracks traffic, check averages and a host of other data through its CREST service, also forecasts traffic will remain flat in the last quarter of this year, a trend that will continue into early ’12. But the firm does predict traffic will rise 1% for the coming year as a whole.

“Even with traffic stagnant for most of this year, there were still 61 billion visits made to U.S. restaurants for the year ending September,” said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD. “Next year the outlook is brighter.”

A 1% increase in traffic at quick-service restaurants in the first quarter and flat QSR traffic during the second and third helped offset continuing traffic drops at midscale/family-style and casual dining restaurants during every quarter this year. Because 78% of all visits are made to QSRs, the segment performance has propped up total visits. Casual dining attracts 12% of traffic, midscale 11%. Visits to fine dining/upscale hotel restaurants have risen 3% to 5% each quarter this year as business travel and restaurant spending have rebounded, but account for only 1% of traffic. In actual, not rounded, numbers, visits rose 0.2% in the first quarter and fell 0.4% in both the second and third quarters.

“Consumers held tight to their foodservice dollars this year; even the deals that helped drive traffic during the past few years weren’t as effective this year.” Riggs said. But she also noted new product offerings, innovation and effective marketing support helped certain QSR categories such as fast-casual, fast-food hamburger, coffee/doughnut/bagel categories and c-store foodservice increase visits this year.

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