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U.S. Foodservice May Be Seeing Some Light at the End of the Tunnel

CHICAGO -- The restaurant industry may be poised for a turn toward recovery, according to The NPD Group's SalesTrac Weekly restaurant market research, which measures same store sales trends for 47 quick service restaurant (QSR) and family-style chains, shows same store sales increases over a year-ago in four of the past six weeks, a trend not seen in 11 months.

In addition to same store sales, NPD reports in its new study entitled, "Light at the End of the Tunnel . . . What Can We Expect," that consumers' economic concerns, and how these concerns influence their restaurant visit patterns, are shifting. Less focused on controlled spending, price and deals, fewer consumers are saying they are trading down in restaurant selection based on price, fewer are searching for good deals more often, and fewer are sacrificing a restaurant visit so they can do other things, according to the report.

"It's clear from our research and other indicators that consumers are feeling more positive about the economy," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst. "Our survey findings, combined with other publicly reported information on restaurants' improving status, suggest a move toward recovery may be starting soon, if it is not already underway."

Although there are positive indications the industry is improving, Riggs cautions the industry isn't out of the woods yet, with total restaurant industry traffic still down 3 percent for the year ending February, a duration of 14 consecutive months of declines.

"Our forecasting model shows that the industry will remain weak for at least another seven months," said Riggs. "Additionally, once losses moderate, it will likely take more than a year to recover lost visits; but there are strong indications that the industry is now moving in the right direction."
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