U.S. restaurant count down; chains stable

The number of U.S. restaurants declined by 1 percent in 2010, according to market research company The NPD Group. This translates to a loss of 5,551 total restaurants from 2009.

The numbers were pulled from NPD's Fall 2010 ReCount, a census of commercial restaurant locations throughout the country compiled in the spring and fall of each year.

According to the research, independent restaurants were hit the hardest last year, dropping by 2 percent, while chain restaurants remained stagnant year-over-year. 

The latest ReCount, which includes restaurants reported to be open as of Sept. 30, 2010, shows the number of quick-service restaurants dropping by 1 percent, or 2,122 units.

Full-service restaurants, including casual, mid-scale and fine dining segments, also experienced a 1 percent drop, or 3,429 units.

Fast casual concepts remain relatively recession-proof. In the fledgling segment, which includes chains only and not independents, unit counts were up 2 percent. There were 13,054 units in this segment in the fall of 2009, and 13,323 in the fall of 2010.

"These past two years have been particularly tough for independents, which don't have the resources to compete with the chains," said Greg Starzynski, director, product development-foodservice at NPD. "Over the past few years we've lost several thousand independent restaurants." 

According to The NPD Group's CREST, which continuously tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets, restaurant traffic has been down since January 2009. However, declines appear to be softening.

For the year ending November 2010, domestic restaurant traffic was down by 1 percent from the prior year, which is an improvement from the 3 percent decline in November 2009 from 2008. 

 

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