Restaurant visits from families or parties with kids increased this past summer after three years of traffic declines, according to market research company The NPD Group. NPD's foodservice market research reported that visits by parties with kids increased by 1 percent overall in the quarter ending August 2010 versus the same quarter a year ago. 

"Although the visits increase reflect just one quarter, the return of parties with kids is another sign that business is beginning to pick up for the restaurant industry," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst. "Parties with kids are integral to the industry and make a significant contribution in both volume and sales." 

According to NPD, last year, even with visits down, families or parties with kids accounted for 14 billion meals and snacks and $70 billion in sales. 

But not all segments are seeing the gains. NPD’s Kim McLynn broke the momentum down by occasion: Parties with kids represent 36 percent of all restaurant visits, she said. Of that, 81 percent are quick-service restaurant visits, 9 percent midscale visits and 10 percent casual dining visits.

But the QSR and midscale categories have the most momentum in this category, posting 1 percent gains – mostly via “kids eat free” promotions, at least for the midscale category, McLynn said. Casual dining visits with kids were actually down by 3 percent.

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