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Consumer Traffic and Spending Increases at Restaurants

Despite improvements, QSR and family dining segments continue to hold the restaurant industry back.

Restaurant and foodservice outlet visits hit the 61.1 billion mark in the year ending May 2015 compared to 60.6 billion visits in the year ending May 2010, based on data from CREST, an ongoing study fielded by The NPD Group. Although industry traffic volume is higher than it was six years ago, stronger industry traffic growth has been hindered by continuing visit declines at quick-service hamburger chains, midscale/family dining, and independent restaurants.

Over a five-year period, traffic has declined by 3 percent at quick-service hamburger chain restaurants and at midscale/family dining restaurants (includes hotel midscale restaurants), and by 2 percent at independent restaurants.

Total foodservice and restaurant visits were flat in the year ending May 2015 compared to a year ago. Quick-service restaurant visits, which include retail and fast-casual categories, increased by 1 percent, and casual dining restaurant traffic, which in the prior five years saw visit declines, held stable, according to NPD. Higher average eater checks were the primary driver of a 3 percent increase in overall consumer spending year over year.

Morning meal/breakfast continued to grow at the fastest pace among all meal dayparts with a 4 percent jump in visits at all restaurants and foodservice outlets, reports NPD. Quick-service restaurants were responsible for most of the visit gains at breakfast, and although overall visits declined at midscale/family dining restaurants, breakfast traffic for this segment held steady. Lunch and dinner visits were flat for the total industry, and traffic at the PM snack daypart declined by 2 percent in year ending May 2015.