Foodservice Equipment Reports

Breakfast And Combo Meals Drive Traffic In Flat Environment

Overall restaurant traffic was flat in the first quarter 2016 in the U.S., according to the latest CREST data from The NPD Group. And the Rosemont, Ill.-based research group expects more of the same. “All in all, the restaurant industry has been conducting business in a 1% world since 2010 and will continue at the same pace for several more years,” the firm wrote in a June 7 press release.

But in the midst of this stagnant customer-count environment, breakfast and discounted combo meals are showing strength. In the first quarter, breakfast/morning meal visits increased 2% compared to the first quarter in 2015, and increased by 4% at quick-service restaurants, The impact of McDonald’s all-day breakfast program helped push servings of breakfast foods 8% higher, with breakfast sandwiches and other breakfast foods topping the list of fastest-growing menu items.

The combo-meal war among the major hamburger QSRs also helped drive traffic growth in the quarter. Visits involving deals rose 2% for the industry overall and 3% at QSRs. The average deal rate at hamburger QSRs is now up to 35%, but the strategy is clearly driving visits higher.

One other interesting aspect of traffic patterns in the first quarter was that visits to fast-casual concepts were flat. But the overall results were attributed completely to Chipotle’s woes following a food safety problem in 2015; visits to fast-casual brands other than Chipotle rose 5% in the quarter.

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