Foodservice Equipment Reports

NPD Forecasts Flat Restaurant Traffic For 2013; Traffic Steady In First Quarter

In spite of inclement weather and an atypical surge in gasoline prices in the first quarter this year, restaurant traffic was even with the first quarter 2012, according the latest data from The NPD Group. The research firm reported a 2% increase in spending at U.S. restaurants during the period.

The group also said it expects that traffic will be flat this year, with a 2.7% rise in total restaurant spending versus ’12. “Ongoing consumer economic concerns coupled with the payroll tax hike will continue to hinder restaurant industry growth,” said NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs. But she also noted that consumers visited restaurants more than 61 billion times in the U.S. last year “which means there is still significant demand.”

Among the segments, visits to quick-service restaurants, which comprise 78% of all traffic, were flat first quarter, while the major full-service segments continued to lose visitors. Traffic at midscale concepts (10% of total traffic) fell 2%, while casual dining (11% of the total) saw a 1% loss. Visits to full-service concepts other than fine dining/upscale hotel (which attracts only 1% of total visits) has been consistently negative for more than five years. Traffic at fine dining, which is driven mostly by business travelers, rose 5% during the first quarter and has been mostly positive since 2010. The combination of flat QSR traffic and the gain at fine dining offset the traffic declines at midscale and casual dining, NPD said.

Among the dayparts, only breakfast drove more traffic, up 2% in the quarter. Lunch traffic was flat, supper lost 1% and visits for p.m. snacks fell 2%.

Information on NPD Group research and products can be found at npd.com.

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