Restaurant Traffic Remains in the Doldrums with No Tailwind in Sight, Reports NPD

U.S. consumers made 61 billion visits to restaurants in the year ending May 2014. No question that’s a lot of visits, the issue is that they have been making that same amount of visits for quite a while now and it’s still below the pre-recession traffic volume levels by almost 1.3 billion visits, reports The NPD Group.

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The restaurant industry is not going to see the strong growth it did prior to the recession in the near future. Consumer attitudes and behaviors have changed and may have changed for good,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst.

Chicago (PRWEB) July 23, 2014

U.S. consumers made 61 billion visits to restaurants in the year ending May 2014. No question that’s a lot of visits, the issue is that they have been making that same amount of visits for quite a while now and it’s still below the pre-Recession traffic volume levels by almost 1.3 billion visits, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Visits to total U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets were flat in year ending May 2014 compared to same period last year and are expected to show little growth over the next several years, according to NPD foodservice market research.

There are a variety of problem areas keeping restaurant industry traffic from growing. Visits to midscale/family dining and casual dining restaurants have been in decline since prior to the recession. Lunch and dinner meal times, which represent two-thirds of all industry visits, have experienced traffic declines over the past several years. Consumers, ages 25-49, have dropped a total of 44 annual visits per person over the last three years. And, more recently, visits to hamburger quick service restaurants have slowed down (down 2 percent in year ending May 2014), finds NPD.

“There are some fundamental shifts in how consumers, particularly middle-class consumers, address their discretionary spending,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “Similar to the stalled growth other retail sectors are experiencing, restaurants are being negatively impacted by a large segment of the population who are watching their discretionary spending closely. Going to a restaurant is a nice-to-have and not a need-to-have.”

There are areas of the industry that are doing well and in many cases it’s a result of being a less expensive option, saves consumers money, or offers more perceived value for the money, reports NPD. Visits at breakfast, the least expensive foodservice main meal, have been up for the last three years. Traffic based on a deal or discount was up 5 percent in the year ending May 2014 period compared to non-deal visits, which were down 2 percent. The fast casual quick service category, which consumers perceive to have enhanced service and higher quality food than traditional quick service restaurants, continues to grow visits.

“The restaurant industry is not going to see the strong growth it did prior to the recession in the near future. Consumer attitudes and behaviors have changed and may have changed for good,” says Riggs. “Margins are being squeezed and it’s a battle for share, but the fact remains that U.S. consumers still make billions of visits to restaurants each year. It’s a matter of staying in touch with the reasons why they visit and providing them the experience they want when they do eat out.”
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About The NPD Group
The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions. By combining unique data assets with unmatched industry expertise, we help our clients track their markets, understand consumers, and drive profitable growth. Sectors covered include automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, entertainment, fashion, food / foodservice, home, luxury, mobile, office supplies, sports, technology, toys, and video games. For more information, visit http://www.npd.com and npdgroupblog.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.