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Restaurant Customer and Unit Growth Remain Flat

Consumer traffic at restaurants remained generally flat, as did the number of restaurants between June 2013 and June 2014, according to The NPD Group's latest study.

According to NPD's ongoing foodservice market research, which tracks daily how consumers use commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets, visits to total and quick-service restaurants were flat in the year ending June 2014 compared to the same period last year. Traffic to casual dining and midscale restaurants, both of which are full-service restaurants, was down 3 percent and 4 percent respectively. Major restaurant chain visits held steady in the year ending June 2013 whereas independent restaurant traffic declined by one percent. NPD's forecast is for foodservice industry traffic to grow less than 1 percent annually for the next several years.

The number of U.S. restaurant locations grew .8 percent in spring 2014 compared to spring 2013, reports The NPD Group. The total U.S. restaurant count stands at 635,494, based on restaurants reported to be open as of March 31, which represents an increase of 5,002 units from spring 2013. Restaurant chains contributed to almost 80 percent of the unit growth, adding 3,718 locations since last year — a 1.3 percent increase.

Independent restaurant counts stood at 351,359, up 1,284 units or up 0.4 percent compared to spring 2013, according to NPD's ReCount study, which tabulates the number of commercial restaurant locations in the United States in the spring and fall each year. Quick-service restaurants grew units to 337,667, up 2 percent, and unit counts for full-service restaurants, which include casual dining, midscale/family dining, and fine dining, declined by 2,156 units to 297,827.