July RPI
Full-service traffic is expected to decline and QSR traffic should rise.

CHICAGO – Just days into the New Year and industry experts are already predicting slow traffic for the US restaurant industry. The NPD Group predicts restaurant traffic will remain “stalled” in 2017, in the same manner it did in 2016. The Chicago-based global information company anticipates a 2 percent decline for full-service restaurants in 2017, according to its daily tracking of US consumers’ use of foodservice. However, a predicted 1 percent increase for quick-service restaurants (QSRs) will offset the decline, leaving the market flat for the upcoming year.

“Restaurant operators are in a position to alter the current forecast, but will need to differentiate themselves from the competition,” Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group’s restaurant industry analyst, said in a statement. “In the year ahead, it will be critical for them to stay relevant in consumers’ minds, focusing on innovative products, unique promotions, competitive pricing, stating the benefits of eating at restaurants vs. home, and delivering an enjoyable experience.”

Additional trends for the restaurant industry in the upcoming year, according to Riggs, are:

The Future Is Now – Millennials and generation Z customers will continue to be crucial to restaurants looking for growth in 2017. These consumer groups are always looking new and different dining experiences, so restaurant operators need to continue to innovate in their venues.  

Personal Choice Reigns – In order to satisfy today’s restaurant consumer, restaurants need to become more customizable. According to NPD, in 2017 more restaurant operators will offer digital menu options, which will enable consumers to customize their orders.  

Technology – Mobile ordering will continue to grow in the restaurant market. Many restaurant operators will be working to capitalize on this growth opportunity in 2017.

Delivery – Third-party delivery providers like GrubHub, Amazon and DoorDash are becoming competitors to traditional delivery options. Restaurant operators willing to take advantage of the popularity of delivery potentially will be able to drive additional traffic.

Restaurant Loyalty Programs – Even though loyalty programs are nothing new, more restaurant operators are likely to develop loyalty programs in the New Year to entice customers to visit their restaurants, according to NPD. In 2017, loyalty programs will place more emphasis on attracting customers who visit restaurants less frequently. NPD’s recently released report, Losing Our Appetites For Restaurants, finds lighter buyers would respond to these programs.