Foodservice Equipment Reports

Winter Pushed Traffic Down 1%, Says NPD, But Delivery Orders Surged

The most surprising aspect of restaurant traffic data for the first quarter 2014 from The NPD Group is that the brutal winter didn’t affect visits even more. Overall traffic fell only 1% January through March, compared with the year early period. The decline comes after traffic was flat in both the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

A more detailed look at the numbers shows some interesting aspects of the U.S. foodservice market. While overall traffic dropped, delivery orders jumped 4% during the period. Delivery orders are counted as an occasion, just like a restaurant visit, and made up 3% of all traffic during the first quarter, according to NPD’s Kim McLynn.

Additionally, the quarter saw double-digit increases in sales of hot tea, hot chocolate and frozen/slushy coffee drinks. Coffee, doughnut and bagel concepts experienced a 5% jump in traffic compared with the first quarter ’13.

The major full-service segments, which have witnessed declining traffic for more than five years, were the most negatively affected by the weather. Mid-scale full-service saw visits decline 4% while traffic at casual-dining concepts fell 2%. Both segments also had 3% traffic declines in the fourth quarter last year. First-quarter traffic fell at the core lunch and supper periods and among 25 to 49 year olds.

“Extreme weather conditions affect consumer behavior in different ways,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant analyst. “It’s challenging for operators to minimize the impact of bad weather, but creative marketing strategies can be used to alter consumers’ decision to stay at home.”

Information on NPD research can be found at npd.com.

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