U.S. restaurant traffic has failed to recover from the slowdown of the recession.
Consumers made 61 billion visits to restaurants in the year ending May 2014, which is roughly 2 billion fewer visits than in 2008, according to data from The NPD Group, an industry research firm.
Traffic has remained relatively flat since 2010. Here’s a chart from NPD showing the trend over the last six years:
Restaurant traffic isn’t expected to pick up any time soon, according to NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs.
“The restaurant industry in total is forecast to grow less than .5% a year over the next decade,” she said.
Quick service restaurants, such as McDonald’s, and casual dining chains, such as Olive Garden and TGI Fridays, will suffer the most from the traffic slowdown, she said.
Fast casual restaurants, however — which include chains like Chipotle and Panera — will see traffic grow at a faster rate of about 2% per year, according to NPD’s estimates.
McDonald’s same-store sales in the U.S. fell 1.5% in the most recent quarter, the company reported Tuesday. By comparison, Chipotle’s same-store sales rose 17% in the second quarter.
Consumers perceive fast casual restaurants, which are often more expensive than quick service, as having healthier, better quality ingredients, Riggs said.
“When you deliver on consumers’ value expectations, price isn’t the issue,” she said.
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