Gen X
NPD research shows a 3 percent drop in independent restaurants units.
CHICAGO – The number of restaurants in the US declined slightly between the fall of 2016 and 2017, according to a restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group. The restaurant count reached 647,288 in fall of 2017, which was a 2 percent decrease in units from the year prior. The decline came primarily from a 3 percent drop in independent restaurant units versus restaurant chains.

NPD conducts its ReCount census of commercial restaurant locations in the spring and fall of each year. The fall 2017 census includes all restaurants open as of Sept. 30, 2017.   

“The US restaurant count is reflective of what’s happening in the foodservice industry today overall,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “To expand or not expand units is a calculated decision on the part of restaurant operators. Chains simply have more monetary resources to grow units whereas independents do not.”   

Restaurant chain counts increased 982 units to 301,183 units. The total number of independent restaurants declined 10,952 units to 346,105 units from the fall of 2016. Quick-service restaurants (QSR) declined by 1 percent to 353,121 units. Fast casual chains, which are a restaurant category under QSR, increased units by 4 percent to 25,118 units. Full-service restaurant units, which include restaurants that fall under the casual dining, family dining and fine dining categories, registered 294,167 units, which was a 2 percent decline.

In 2017, NPD reported restaurant density was at its lowest level in 10 years, dropping from 1,992 units per million in fall 2007 to 1,924 units per million in fall 2016. Meanwhile, overall US restaurant traffic ended 2017 flat. Had it not been for a 1 percent increase in QSR visits, the overall traffic would have ended up in decline, according to NPD’s CREST report, which tracks daily consumer use of commercial and non-commercial restaurants and foodservice outlets.