Foodservice Equipment Reports

Casual Dining Ends Five Years Of Traffic Declines As 2Q Traffic Rose 1%, Says NPD

The second quarter of 2013 keeps turning out surprisingly robust foodservice data in many ways. We’ve written about the strong gains of the MAFSI Business Barometer and publicly reporting equipment and supplies company revenue growth in the period. Now the NPD Group reports that customer traffic rose 1% in the second quarter, compared to 2Q/2012. Visits to quick-service concepts, which represent 78% of all traffic, were up 1%. Fast-casual traffic again drove the gain. Such concepts, which are included in the QSR category, saw visits rise 8% in the quarter. Overall traffic was flat in the 1Q/13 and since NPD had earlier forecast flat traffic for 2013 as a whole, the 2Q increase was somewhat unexpected.

But perhaps the most surprising information in the report is that traffic at casual dining restaurants finally stopped a five-year negative trend. Casual-dining restaurant traffic held steady in the period. It was the first time since 2Q/2008 that casual dining traffic was not negative, a run of 19 consecutive quarters of negative traffic numbers. CDR visits fell 1% in each of the previous two quarters.

Among the other major segments tracked by NPD’s CREST consumer panel data, midscale concepts saw traffic fall 2% again, as in the previous three quarters, while visits to fine dining and upscale hotel restaurants were up 6%, the segments third consecutive quarter of strong gains. Midscale restaurants have lost traffic share for nearly a decade to both QSR and CDR concepts. Fine dining traffic growth is being driven by strong business travel trends, but the segment accounts for less than 1% of total foodservice traffic.

Among the dayparts, breakfast visits rose again, up 3% in the quarter, snack occasions rose 1% while the big lunch and dinner meal periods saw flat traffic.

“There were several bright spots in the industry in the second quarter, and certainly casual dining ending its cycle of traffic losses was one of them,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant analyst.

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