The number of diners visiting U.S. restaurants in the second quarter of 2012 was flat compared with a year ago but only because traffic at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) was up 1%, according to new data from The NPD Group.
Suggesting American consumers haven’t given up the cost-conscious behavior brought by the recession, mid-price restaurants continue to see customer-traffic declines. Midscale restaurants ($9.66 average check in 2012′s Q2) have seen steady customer erosion over the last four years and a 4% decline for Q2 of 2012. Casual-dining restaurants ($13.31 average check) saw customer growth in 2008’s Q2 but not since. But QSRs ($5.18 average check) have seen 1% customer gains over the past two years.
Visits increased (versus last year) at all main meal periods for QSRs in Q2, according to NPD. Conversely, midscale restaurants saw declines at all meal periods. Supper, the key daypart for casual-dining restaurants (such as Olive Garden or Applebee’s) was weak but lunch traffic was stable.
Although fine-dining restaurants are the smallest segment of the industry, customer traffic at these upscale operations has rebounded from a 4% drop in the year ended in June 2008 and a 5% dip the following the year. After rising 3% last year, fine-dining traffic was up 4% in Q2 2012.
“In our forecast for the balance of 2012 and 2013, the foodservice industry’s growth is likely to depend on check increases, with traffic remaining relatively flat,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “An improvement in the economy, especially reducing unemployment, would certainly help the [restaurant] industry improve.”