Foodservice Equipment Reports

U.S. Visits Up, But Units Down

Visits to foodservice establishments hit their highest number since 2009-10, according to data from The NPD Group’s CREST research, but overall traffic for the year ended May 2015 still was flat compared with the comparative year prior. Additionally, the number of net restaurants in the U.S. fell 1% for the year ended March 31, compared with the comparable year prior. On the positive side, check averages rose, driving consumer spending 3% higher.

Total visits to foodservice establishments reached 61.1 billion in the year ended May 2015, up from 60.6 billion during the same 12-month period in 2010. But while traffic volume is higher than it was five years ago, overall traffic growth has remained flat as key segments, such as quick-service hamburger concepts and midscale/family dining operations including those at hotels (off 3%) and independent restaurants of all service types (off 2%), have seen visitor declines over the five-year period.

In the past year, on the other hand, quick-service-restaurant visits, which include fast-casual and retail outlets, rose 1%, and casual dining, which has been battered by years of traffic declines, experienced stable traffic. The morning meal/breakfast period, driven by gains at quick-service concepts, continued to see traffic gains growth, with visits up 4% for the 12 months. Lunch and dinner traffic was flat while P.M. snack traffic fell 2%.

The loss of total units, as reported in the Spring 2015 NPD ReCount census, is an indication that the mature, slow-growth, highly competitive restaurant environment is taking a toll on operators, especially independents. While independents and very small chains still control nearly 54% of the 630,511 units in the country, their net numbers fell 3% during the year ended March 31 compared with the year prior. Nearly all of the losses were among full-service operators. Chains grew their unit counts by 1%. The overall number of net units lost was 7,073.

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