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Independent Burger Joint Growth Outpaces Chains, Industry

Source: The NPD Group/Fall 2012 ReCount

The total number of U.S. restaurants increased by 4,442 or 0.7% to 616,008 between the fall of 2011 and fall 2012, according to new data from The NPD Group. Additionally, the number of QSR (quick service and fast casual) burger-menu restaurants grew by 0.7% as well.

But the most surprising news is that the number of independent (1 or 2 locations) burger QSRs was up by 3% while QSR burger chain locations increased by 0.4%. That means that despite repeated projections from industry pundits that the “burger boom” would lose its momentum, non-chain burger bars showed more growth than the overall restaurant industry.

Independents’ share of the QSR burger market remains small, of course: The 5,776 indie QSR burger restaurants account for just 11.4% of the 50,454 total QSR burger restaurants counted by NPD Group’s ReCount, which is a count of commercial restaurant locations in the U.S. compiled in the spring and fall each year.

A year ago, NPD found that the total number of U.S. restaurants (in all categories) had declined by 1.1% between fall 2010 and fall 2,011, so this year’s overall 0.7% gain represents a rebound. Much of that came from QSR restaurants (including fast-casual), which showed a 1% increase in 2012. The number of full-service restaurants (including casual-dining, midscale/family-dining and fine-dining restaurants remained relatively flat from 2011 to 2012.

For the restaurant industry as a whole, chain locations numbered 276,259, up 1.1% from 2011. Independents numbered 339,770,  a slight (0.4%) decline from 2012.

NPD Group’s CREST tracking finds that total restaurant customer traffic was up 1% for the 12 months ended November 2012. American diners made 60 billion restaurant visits during that period.

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