NPD Group: Independent Restaurant Units Dip

CHICAGO — The total U.S. restaurant count experienced a 0.6-percent dip to 629,488 units from one year ago, according to The NPD Group’s latest research, "Fall 2015 Recount," which includes restaurants open as of Sept. 30.

Independent restaurants were negatively impacted by the total restaurant count, with a 2-percent decline in units. Alternatively, chain units saw a positive impact with unit increases by 1 percent from a year ago from 289,726 to 292,943 units.

Although the 2-percent decline in independent restaurant units is sourced by both quick-service and full-service segments, the higher concentration of independent units is in the full-service segment, which includes casual dining, midscale/family dining and fine dining, according to NPD. The quick-service segment saw the steepest unit decline, while the fast casual quick-service category continues to rise, increasing units by 5 percent from 18,176 in fall 2014 to 19,043 in fall 2015.

NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research CREST also found that U.S. restaurant visits in the year ending December 2015 nearly returned to pre-recession levels, up 700 million visits from 2010. Visits to quick service restaurants — which represent 79 percent of total industry traffic — were up 1 percent, while full service restaurant traffic — representing 21 percent of total visits — declined.  

The market research firm also found that restaurant count tallies in the top five largest metropolitan areas of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Houston were a mix of up and down:

  • The New York-Newark-Jersey City area experienced the steepest decline with a 6-percent dip in units, dropping from 48,239 restaurants to 46,793.
  • Restaurants in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro declined by 3 percent, decreasing units from 19,577 to 19,322.
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim increased restaurants by 2 percent, from 28,928 in fall 2014 to 29,208 in fall 2015.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington restaurant counts climbed by 3 percent, from 13,542 to 13,763.
  • Restaurant units in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land also increased by 3 percent from 12,149 to 12,339.

“There is still a cautious approach to expansion overall as the restaurant sector continues to recover, but chains are slowly adding on units and the fast casual quick-service category continues to grow,” says Greg Starzynski, director, product management, NPD Foodservice. “Independents are historically less stable, not having the same resources as chains to get through more difficult times.”                    

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