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    Number of U.S. Restaurants Declines

    Independent restaurant closings account for nearly all of the loss, NPD Group data reveals.

    CHICAGO -- The number of U.S. restaurants dropped by 9,450, or 2 percent, from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, according to research conducted by The NPD Group.

    NPD's Spring ReCount, revealed today, showed that most of the decline was attributed to independent restaurants closing. During the census period, 8,650 of the 9,450 total restaurants closed were run as independent locations. Independent restaurants declined by 3 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

    "The decline in independent units is the steepest we've seen since NPD began conducting the Spring ReCount census in 2001," said Greg Starzynski, director of product development-foodservice for the research firm. "A volatile economy, more frugal consumers and a lack of financial backing have made it a difficult business environment for independent restaurants."

    Among the 9,450 restaurant closings, full-service restaurants declined by 5,965 units, while quick-service restaurants decreased by 3,495 locations.

    The news wasn't all bad for the restaurant industry, however. According to NPD's CREST division, visits to U.S. restaurants were flat for the year ending May 2011, an improvement from the 3-percent drop the prior year. In addition, consumer spending at restaurants improved by 2 percent for the year ending May 2011 when compared to the prior year.

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