CHICAGO ─ The restaurant count in the United States increased by less than 1 percent from a year ago reaching a total of 633,043 units, based on a recent restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group. Restaurant units increased by 4,179, but that represents only a .7 percent increase over last year, based on NPD’s Fall 2013 ReCount, which quantifies commercial restaurant locations in the US compiled each spring and fall.

Restaurant chains grew by 1 percent to a total of 281,613 units, an increase of 3,171 over last year, according to this report, which includes restaurants open as of Sept. 30, 2013. The independent restaurant count stood at 351,430, up 1,008 units compared to the year ago census. Quick-service restaurants units increased to 333,970, up 2 percent. Unit counts for full-service restaurants, which include casual dining, midscale/family dining, and fine dining, declined by 1 percent to 299,073 units. Fast-casual, which is a restaurant category under the quick-service segment, increased units by 902 for a total of 16,215 in the most recent NPD restaurant census, up 6 percent from year-earlier ReCount.

Total restaurant traffic visits were flat in the year ending December 2013, compared to the same period last year, according to NPD’s CREST, which tracks daily consumer use of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets. US consumers made 61 billion restaurant visits during the period.

“The restaurant recovery continues to move slowly and as a result operators are taking a cautious approach to expansion,” said Greg Starzynski, director- product management, NPD Foodservice. “This conservative approach to restaurant unit expansion will continue into the foreseeable future.”