• NPD: Unit counts decline for QSR, full service restaurants

According to foodservice market research by The NPD Group, while the U.S. restaurant unit count for quick- and full-service dining establishments has declined by 1 percent, for a loss of 5,204 restaurants, the number of fast casual units has grown 1.8 percent.

For the period comparing spring 2010 to spring 2009, the number of quick service restaurants declined by -1 percent or 2,521 units. Full service restaurant units, which includes the casual dining, mid-scale, and fine dining segments also experienced a unit loss of 1 percent or 2,683 units. Meanwhile, the number of fast casual units grew from 10,011 in spring 2009 to 10193 in spring 2010.

The research is available in NPD's Spring 2010 ReCount, a census of commercial restaurant locations in the United States compiled in the spring and fall each year. The report finds that independent restaurant closings contributed to most of the decline, while chain units remained relatively stable.

“It's been a difficult time for the restaurant industry with customer traffic down over the past year,” said Greg Starzynski, director, product development-foodservice at NPD. “The unit losses we’re seeing in our latest census are a reflection of the weakness in the industry with the greatest impact on the independent restaurant operators.”

According to The NPD Group's CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets, visits to U.S. QSR and casual-dining restaurants declined 3 percent for the year ending May 2010 compared to a year ago. But for that same period, total visits to fast casual restaurants were up 5 percent.

Meanwhile, consumer spending at QSR and casual-dining restaurants declined by 1 percent, the first decline in dollars NPD has reported since it began tracking the foodservice industry in 1976.

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