NPD Forecasts 1% Traffic Growth Again In 2016

Visits to restaurants grew 1% in 2015, and finally regained the traffic lost during the long foodservice recession, according to data from The NPD Group’s CREST consumer data. And the Rosemont, Ill-based research firm predicts another 1% gain in 2016.

“It has been a long slow recovery but the foodservice industry has recovered nearly all the steep traffic loses incurred after the recession began in 2008,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s Restaurant Industry analyst. American consumers ate away from home more than 61 billion times in 2015.

Factors that drove traffic growth last year included continuing expansion of breakfast occasions, growth at quick-service restaurants, menu innovation and “all things bacon, barbecue and steak.”

Fast casual was the main driver of traffic gains at QSRs, with traffic rising 8% last year. C-stores, also included within the QSR category, saw a 2% increase in visits. Overall, QSR concepts, which account for 79% of all visits, saw traffic increase 1%.

Among the menu items seeing strong growth last year in addition to barbecue, bacon and steak were hot and spicy items sauced with sriracha, ghost peppers and jalapenos.

The key demographic driving traffic growth were older consumers. Those 50-years-old and older accounted for nearly all the 2015 visit growth.

Riggs forecasts that QSRs will continue to drive traffic growth in 2016. Casual dining visits are expected to be flat while midscale dining should see a 1% decline in visits.

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