US visits to restaurants have been largely flat in the first three calendar quarters of 2011, according to figures released in December 2011 by The NPD Group. Data from NPD’s CREST service, which tracks consumer use of restaurants, indicates that restaurant traffic was up 0.2% year-over-year for Q1, but declined 0.4% year-over-year for Q2 and Q3.
NPD predicts industry visits to remain flat for the rest of 2011 and beginning of next year, but to finish 2012 up 1%.
QSRs Prop Up Struggling Sector
Quick service restaurants (QSRs)/fast food, which represent 78% of industry visits, held up the industry with 1% year-over-year gain in Q1, while remaining flat in Q2 and Q3. Visits to casual dining restaurants, which represent 11% of industry traffic, fell 2% in both Q1 and Q2 compared to the previous year, and by 1% in Q3. Midscale/family style restaurants, which represent 10% of industry traffic, saw a year-over-year decline in traffic of 2% in Q1 and 4% in both Q2 and Q3.
C-Stores Gain at QSRs’ Expense
Meanwhile, according to Technomic research released in November 2011, consumers are taking advantage of the increasing number of meals and snacks options offered by convenience stores, many times at the expense of QSRs. Of consumers polled on their most recent convenience store purchase, 27% indicated that if they had not bought their meal from the convenience store in question, they would have purchased it from a fast-food restaurant.
Visits Flat, But Spending Up
Although consumer traffic to restaurants was soft in the first three quarters, NPD data shows consumer spending continuing to increase modestly due to check growth. Industry spending was up 1.3% year-over-year in Q3, 2% in Q2, and 1% in Q1. The average per-person check rose 1% in Q1 and 2% in each of the last two quarters.
- According to Technomics, 82% of consumers who visit convenience stores report purchasing prepared foods from them at least once a month, while 52% do so at least once a week.
- 27% of convenience store consumers said they purchased an afternoon snack during their most recent visit, while 19% purchased lunch.
- Impulse buying plays a major role in convenience store food purchases: 31% of convenience store foodservice consumers said that seeing an item, which triggered a craving, was the primary motivation for buying it.
About the Data: The Technomic findings are based on a survey of more than 3,700 consumers who visit convenience stores.