Foodservice Equipment Reports

Global Traffic Improved Slightly Fourth Quarter; U.S. Casual-Dining Traffic Finally Rises To Flat

Two reports from The NPD Group paint a picture of the global and U.S. foodservice markets finally showing some positive traffic trends.

NPD’s CREST foodservice consumer research tracked overall visit gains in five of the 11 country markets the research firm follows, a development it termed “a slight turnaround.” And in the U.S. market, traffic at casual-dining full-service concepts was flat for the 12-month period ending February this year, as traffic trends began to go positive beginning in the fall of 2014.

For Q4/2014, overall visits to restaurants rose in the U.S., Australia, the U.K., Germany and China. All but China saw increases of 1% or less, while traffic surged nearly 5% in China, which has fully recovered from a couple quarters of traffic declines in 2013. Including an average check increase of 3%, total average foodservice spending at restaurants rose 7.8% in China. All figures are compared with Q4/2013.

The number of visits declined in Canada for the first time in a year, while the rest of continental Europe and Japan also saw moderately negative traffic trends Q4/2014. Traffic dropped 2% but check averages rose 3.5% in Russia, as economic sanctions bit in consumer confidence and drove food prices higher.

In the U.S., casual dining is finally seeing a recovery in traffic after years of negative trends going back to 2008. The gains in the latter half of 2014 and early 2015 helped push overall traffic to flat for the year ending in February for the first time since then. NPD said visits to major (more than 500 units) and smaller chains grew while visits to independent casual dining operations continued to decline. Spending at casual dining concepts increased 3% for the 12-month period, a gain driven in part by menu-price increases.

The increases were also centered in weekday visits, which rose for the second year in a row. Weekend visits were down again, but the rate of decline slowed. NPD credited improved employment trends and rising consumer confidence for the weekday gains, while weekend visits at lunch, on a deal and by families with kids were the contributors to the fall on weekends. Visits at dinner, which accounts for 59% of all casual-dining traffic were down slightly while traffic at lunch was flat.

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