CHICAGO ? In comparing this spring against spring 2009, U.S. restaurant unit counts declined by 1%, or a loss of 5,204 restaurants, according to foodservice market research from The NPD Group. Independent restaurant closings contributed to most of the decline, while chain units remained relatively stable, indicates NPD’s Spring 2010 ReCount, which is a census of commercial restaurant locations in the U.S. compiled in the spring and fall each year.

The number of quick-service restaurants declined by -1% or 2,521 units, according to NPD’s Spring 2010 ReCount, which was collected from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010. Full-service restaurant units, which includes the casual dining, mid-scale, and fine dining segments also experienced a unit loss of 1% or 2,683 units.

“It’s been a difficult time for the restaurant industry with customer traffic down over the past year,” says Greg Starzynski, director, product development-foodservice at NPD. “The unit losses we’re seeing in our latest census are a reflection of the weakness in the industry with the greatest impact on the independent restaurant operators.”

Visits to U.S. restaurants declined by 3% for the year ending May 2010 compared to a year ago, according to The NPD Group’s CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets. Consumer spending at restaurants declined by 1%, the first decline in dollars NPD has reported since it began tracking the foodservice industry in 1976.