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Burgers Beat Restaurant Industry Growth Rate

The growth of burger-menu restaurants continues to outpace the overall restaurant industry’s expansion. According to The NPD Group’s most recent restaurant census, the total number of restaurants rose just 0.5% in the past year. Limited-service burger restaurants, however, increased at twice that rate at a full 1.0% and the number of non-chain independent burger joints grew 3%.

Overall, independents continue to outnumber chain restaurants, but the gap continues to slowly narrow as independent restaurants close. As of Spring 2013, there were 617,505 restaurants, of which 280,336 or slightly more than 45% were chain units. Independent restaurants declined almost imperceptibly (-0.2%) to 337,169, a net decline of 536 locations. Chains gained 3,045 locations.

Quick-service restaurants (no table-side ordering) accounted for 328,162 units or roughly 53% of NPD’s total restaurant count. That represented a 1% increase. The number of full-service restaurants (including family-dining, casual-dining and fine-dining restaurants) was flat at 289,343.

While the overall restaurant industry was eking out a 0.5% gain, burger restaurants continued to grow at a faster rate. The number of quick-service burger restaurants rose 1% to 50,665, according to supplemental data supplied by The NPD Group to BurgerBusiness.com. Burger-menu restaurants account for 15.4% of all QSR locations.

Chain locations still greatly outnumber independents in the burger sector. NPD’s spring census counted 44,809 chain units and 5,856 independent burger joints. But while the number of chain locations increased by 1% in the past year, independent burger joints increased 3% to 5,856 (see chart).

NPD’s CREST tracking service finds that the total number of restaurant customers showed no growth over the past year. It counts 61 billion restaurant visits during the 12-month period ended this spring. That’s a decline of 1.73 billion annual visits compared with the year ended May 2009.

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