Dine-In Visits Increase for Third Straight Year

CHICAGO — The amount of customers that sit down to eat their meal inside a restaurant is ahead of those who carry it out or use the drive-thru, leading to higher average check sizes, according to data from The NPD Group. Dine-in visits currently represent $223.4 billion dollars annually for the restaurant industry, compared to $200.3 billion from off-premises visits.

On-premises restaurant visits increased by 2 percent last year vs. the prior year and have now been up for three consecutive years, while off-premises traffic declined by 1 percent. For the year ending May 2015, dine-in visits increased 1 percent and off-premises visits were flat, according to NPD's CREST foodservice market research.

Quick-service restaurants, which represent 78 percent of total industry traffic, increase dine-in visits by 5 percent last year, marking the highest gain of all restaurant segments. Casual dining on-premises traffic held steady in the year ending December 2014 compared to overall visit declines for the segment. Meanwhile, dine-in visits at family dining/midscale restaurants declined alongside overall visits.

"The message for restaurant operators is that on-premises consumers are happier and more profitable consumers," stated Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD. "Treat them right with good tasting food and the best service and a return visit is likely."

The top benefits to dining on-premises involve the experience and how good it makes diners feel, according to consumer beliefs. Some reasons provided include: "Good to get out and meet someone," "Relaxing," "I spent time with my family," "Fun to do," and "I don't need to worry about anything." This falls in line with the experiential purchasing trend — the idea that consumers want to do something, not just buy something — that marketers are seeing across consumer sectors.

Good-tasting food is far and away the cost of entry for restaurant operators looking to drive on-premises visits, followed by convenience and service, NPD said.

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