Foodservice Equipment Reports

Restaurant Traffic Spiked In Last Quarter, NPD Says; Full-Service Visits Finally Rose

Whether they were driven by reports of strong job gains, the dizzying drop in gasoline prices and/or consumer confidence returning to pre-recession levels, Americans decided to visit restaurants more often in the last four months of 2014, according to The NPD Group’s CREST research. Overall restaurant traffic rose 1% in the three months September through November, compared with the same period in 2013. Traffic also is expected to have risen during December.

It was the first quarter of 2014 that saw a traffic gain. Traffic fell 1% in the first quarter, as severe winter weather buffeted the industry. Traffic was flat in the second and third quarters. Flat traffic has been one of the biggest challenges restaurant operators have faced in the post-recession era.

The most surprising thing in the NPD data was positive traffic trends at full-service concepts. Visits at casual dining concepts, which account for about 10% of total traffic, rose 2% in the September-November period. It was the first gain casual-dining operators have seen since 2008. Mid-scale restaurants, full-service concepts without alcohol that attract another 10% of total visits, had flat traffic during the period. It was the first quarter mid-scale restaurants have not experienced a quarterly traffic decline since 2006. Quick-service restaurants, which control 79% of traffic, saw a 1% increase during the period as did fine-dining/upscale-lodging concepts.

NPD says traffic for all of 2014 was flat, despite the gain in the final part of the year. It forecasts 1% growth in traffic in 2015.

Information on NPD foodservice research products is available at npd.com.