Lighter foodservice traffic in 2016: NPD

by Joel Crews
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CHICAGO – Despite an uptick in spending among diners in US foodservice outlets overall in 2016, the quick-service segment, widely regarded as a barometer for dining trends, saw traffic growth that was flat during the year, according to a new report from The NPD Group, a leading consumer trends research firm.

The drop in traffic was attributed in large part to fewer lunch visits across the board, according to the study, “NPD Group’s daily tracking of consumers’ use of restaurants and other foodservice outlets.” The report concluded that the decrease of 2 percent in the lunch visit category was due to more employees working from home and fewer opportunities for consumers to dine out while shopping, as more would-be diners are not shopping in stores and opting for online spending.

According to the report, “Weekend, dinner and independent restaurant visit declines also prevented the industry from growing last year.”

Positive takeaways from the report included an increase in spending of 3 percent among consumers at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and 2 percent for the totality of the foodservice segment, which tallied 62 million visits. An increased average among diners’ checks buoyed spending growth and continued growth in morning traffic, drive-thru customers and increases in breakfast food purchases, likely due in part to McDonald’s Corp.’s move to offering its breakfast menu all day.

“The dynamics that have driven the foodservice industry for all these many decades are changing and changing quickly,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group’s restaurant industry analyst.

She added that foodservice will always play an important role for consumers, but expectations and buying habits will likely continue to change.

“Operators and manufacturers need to heed the changing dynamics and adjust their strategies accordingly,” Riggs said.

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