The U.S. restaurant industry entered 2011 hopeful after ending 2010 with two consecutive quarters of one percent traffic increases, but the continuing economic saga of high unemployment and low consumer confidence kept visits to restaurants flat in the first three calendar quarters of the year, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company.
Restaurant traffic was just above the line at +0.2 percent in the quarter ending March and just below the line at -0.4 percent for both the second and third calendar quarters, according to NPD’s CREST® service, which continually tracks consumer use of U.S. restaurants. Quick service restaurants (QSR)/fast food, which represent 78 percent of industry visits, held up the industry with a one percent gain in the first quarter ending March, and visits flat in each the second and third quarters. Visits to casual dining restaurants, which represent 11 percent of industry traffic, declined two percent in both the first and second quarters of 2010 and by one percent in the third quarter. Midscale/family style restaurants, which represent 10 percent of industry visits, saw traffic decline by two percent in the first quarter and down by four percent in the quarter ending September.