CHICAGO ? Visits to U.S. restaurants were down for the eighth consecutive quarter this past spring due to the effects of a lingering recession, but the rate of decline eased over the same quarter a year ago, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company.

NPD’s foodservice market research showed visits to restaurants declined by 1% in the quarter ending June 2010, an improvement over the 3% traffic loss in spring 2009. Following four consecutive quarters of declines, consumer spending at commercial foodservice this spring edged above a year-ago spending, with a 1% increase.

Traffic was weakest at full-service restaurants, visits to casual dining restaurants were down 2% and mid-scale restaurant traffic was down 3%, according to NPD’s CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets. Traffic to quick-service restaurants (Q.S.R.) was stable in the second calendar quarter following five quarters of year-over-year declines.

Visit losses at non-commercial foodservice outlets also eased slightly in the second quarter, though traffic is still 6% below year-ago levels for the same quarter ending June 2010, according to NPD’s 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.

Sectors most affected by the economy and high unemployment, such as business and industry, vending and recreation, posted the steepest declines.