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Industry Research

Traffic Flat But Spending Is Up

December 20, 2013 By: Jack Robertiello


reportsMaybe your operation’s numbers don’t exactly reflect the 2013 trends, but a recently released report about the restaurant industry indicates that customer traffic has been flat but they’ve been spending a little more than last year.

Both traffic and spending, however, are expected to increase in 2014, according to the new report from the NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research company says in their report, NPD’s CREST® foodservice market research, that overall foodservice traffic was flat for the 12 months ending September 2013, compared with a year earlier, while average spending rose two percent during that period.

"Although consumers are expected to be cautious about their spending in the coming years, our forecast for traffic and dollar growth for 2014 shows improved performance compared to 2013," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst, said in a release. "Despite overall industry demand holding steady, there will always be winners - or those who can win the battle for market share."

And while the research group predicts growth for next year, that increase will be mild, with traffic up about one percent and spending about three percent. Further, some important sectors might continue to struggle. "An area offsetting industry growth in 2013 is the ongoing struggle of full-service restaurants," according to the company’s release about the report. "Casual dining, midscale and family dining, despite aggressive dealing, haven't realized annual visit gains in several years."

Not surprisingly, NPD’s study revealed that fast-casual and quick-service restaurants have done best and are positioned to benefit the most as sales increase in 2014. Fast-casual operations reported an eight percent increase in traffic for the 12 months ended in September.

Also troubling was the information that Millennials (a group restaurants have been heavily targeting in the recent past) and families with children at home cut back on dining out. For example, annual per capita visits of Americans aged 25 to 34 went from 251 in 2008 to 207 in 2013. Visits by families with kids declined by one percent in the year ending September 2013 tracking period.

Earlier this year, NPD reported that restaurant visits on a deal or discount increased across all segments in the first nine months of 2013 after declining in 2012. NPD’s foodservice market research reported that restaurant visits on a deal were up two percent in the year ending August 2013 compared to same period year ago when deal visits were down by one percent.

Visits based on a “buy some, get some” or “two-for-a-deal” type offers had the highest gain among all deal offers with a 14 percent increase over last year, according to NPD’s CREST® research. Casual dining restaurants hoping to reverse steady traffic declines aggressively offered these types of deals throughout the year. Value menu visits were up six percent compared to last year, which helped push quick service restaurant deal visits up two percent and kept visits to traditional QSRs stable in the period. Discounted price traffic was up four percent across all restaurant segments and visits on a coupon increased by two percent.


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