Foodservice Equipment Reports

Restaurant Traffic Rose 1% In First Quarter, Says NPD

Mild winter weather prompted consumers to eat out at restaurants more often in the first quarter, according to data from The NPD Group’s CREST. Overall restaurant traffic was up 1% in the January through March period, compared to the first quarter last year. It was the strongest gain in visits since the second quarter 2008. On the other hand, traffic at noncommercial operations declined by 2% during the first quarter.

“Thanks to unusually mild weather, winter 2012 was a bright spot for the foodservice,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. She cautioned, however, that the challenging economic environment will likely lead to a traffic slowdown for the remainder of the year.

Growth in traffic at major quick-service chains, those with more than 500 units, drove the market. Major QSR chains saw visits increase by 3%. Overall QSR traffic rose 2%. The only other segment with a traffic increase was fine dining/upscale lodging, which posted a 6% increase in visits. The family dining segment saw a 3% traffic decline and casual dining was off 2%.

CREST OnSite, which tracks visits in noncommercial and lodging operations, reported that schools saw a 3% increase in the quarter versus the first quarter ’11 and lodging had a slight increase, the sixth consecutive quarter of gains in Lodging foodservice visits. But these increases were offset by declining traffic at colleges and universities, business and industry, healthcare and vending.

Among the dayparts, the morning meal saw an 3% increase in traffic, p.m. snack was up 1% , and lunch and  supper were flat.

For information on CREST and other NPD Group research products, go to npd.com.

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