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CHICAGO — In 2015, the U.S. foodservice industry recovered the visits it lost during the Great Recession, according to The NPD Group. It ends the year with total traffic volume at 61 billion visits, up 1 percent and a consumer spending gain of 3 percent compared to the same time last year.
Drivers of this growth include the continuing strength of breakfast foods, quick-service restaurant (QSR) traffic growth, menu innovation, and everything related to bacon, BBQ and steak.
Breakfast remains the fastest growing foodservice daypart and is accelerating, NPD found. All-day breakfast at McDonald's and burgers for breakfast at Burger King both seemed to satisfy consumers' needs.
Meanwhile, QSRs were the strongest performing segment, representing 79 percent of all foodservice visits. The QSR fast-casual category increased visits by 8 percent and retail convenience store foodservice traffic grew by 2 percent, according to NPD. Although these QSR segments are on opposite ends of the price spectrum, both meet consumers' needs for quality, convenience and value. Total QSR growth was 1 percent.
Adults ages 50 and up drove most of the industry traffic growth and will continue to do so. Top food varieties and flavor include everything barbecue, bacon and steak with compelling offerings from chains such as Carl's Jr., Wendy's and Taco Bell. Hot and spicy options, such as sriracha, ghost peppers and jalapeno, were particularly popular with millennials and Generation Z.
"It has been a long slow recovery but the foodservice industry has recovered nearly all of the steep traffic losses incurred after the recession began in 2008," said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD. "QSRs have and will continue to support the traffic gain, while casual dining visits are forecast to hold steady and midscale to decline by 1 percent."
She added, "With continued focus on consumers ever changing wants and needs, the industry can alter the current forecast of minimal growth. After all, forecasts are not cast in stone; they are to be used as a guideline and something to work against."