Restaurant visits ease in second quarter

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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CHICAGO — Both the US economy and restaurant traffic stalled in the second quarter of the year, according to The NPD Group, a market research company. Visits to US restaurants slipped by 0.4 percent in the second quarter (April, May, June) compared to same time year ago bringing the industry recovery that began in the third quarter of 2010 to a halt, NPD’s foodservice market research shows.

In spring 2011 versus spring 2010, consumers spent 1.5 percent more at restaurants. This increase, unlike the three prior quarters, traced solely to higher checks as traffic contracted slightly.

“The consumer demand in the prior three quarters wasn’t strong enough to overcome another bump in unemployment, rising gas and commodity prices, and low consumer confidence,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group restaurant industry analyst. “The confidence they had in the latter part of last year and the beginning of this year was eroded by bad economic news.”

Visits to quick service restaurants were flat in the spring compared to spring 2010, according to NPD’s CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets. Midscale traffic declined by 4 percent and casual dining traffic declined by 2 percent compared to same time year ago. Fine dining, which had steep declines in 2009 and the first half of 2010, showed some growth in each of the past four quarters.

Total non-commercial traffic is down 2 percent versus the same quarter in 2010, however, the rate of decline eased from steeper losses during the recession, shows CREST OnSite, which tracks usage of foodservice at business and industry, secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, lodging, recreation, senior care, military and vending segments. Weakness remained prevalent in recreation, education and business and industry sectors. Lodging and hospital foodservice visits were up in the spring compared to last spring.

The restaurant industry will close 2011 with a 1 percent gain in traffic, on par with 2009, but well below the peak years of 2007 and 2008, NPD forecasts.
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