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PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- Consumer visits to restaurants dipped 2 percent for the year ended in September, contributing to flat year-over-year industry sales for 2009, Nation's Restaurant News reported, citing research from The NPD Group.
NPD added it does not expect traffic trends to turn positive until after June 2010. In comparison, the research group said industry traffic grew by 0.5 percent for the year ended September 2008, and by 1 percent in the same 2007 period, the report stated.
NPD's CREST research, which continually tracks consumer usage of foodservice, found traffic declined across all restaurant segments and dayparts for the September-ended year. Visits to quick-service restaurants (QSRs), which represent the largest share of the industry, declined by 2 percent, while casual-dining traffic fell by 3 percent and guest counts at mid-scale concepts decreased 4 percent, according to CREST data.
A variety of factors contributed to the declines in restaurant visits and spending, including high unemployment, and the difference between food prices at home and away-from-home. "Food prices at supermarkets are less than a year ago, while restaurant prices are higher than a year ago," NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs said.
Unlike in 2008, traffic gains from consumers responding to meal deals were not enough to sustain overall traffic trends in 2009. NPD said deal-related visits increased 3 percent during the 12 months ended in September, but non-deal visits dropped 4 percent. The 2008 research showed deal traffic up 4 percent, and non-deal traffic down 1 percent.
The NPD's prediction of continued negative traffic trends into 2010 is not unlike the word from officials of Technomic Inc., who earlier said there is "a ways to go before we see a [traffic] rebound," while forecasting that 2009 and 2010 would mark the industry's first-ever consecutive years of sales declines, NRN reported.
NPD: U.S. Restaurant Traffic Posts Steepest Decline in 28 Years