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Among 12 different types of restaurants tracked by marketing research firm CHD Expert during the first half of the year, full service family-style restaurants, cafes and diners experienced the most net growth with 3 percent more units, followed by delivery and take-away (only) limited-service restaurants (2.5 percent) and fast casual restaurants (2.4 percent).

According to the report, the data signifies that consumers and restaurant operators are staying in their "comfort zones" during these slow economic times, rather than taking big risks.

"While we're certainly encouraged to see more restaurant segments growing than declining, it does appear that consumers remain frugal about their spending, looking for safe economical solutions without compromising on quality," said Cathy Kearns, general manager at CHD Expert.

Based on the type of menu served, 2012 restaurant openings also reflected the appeal of familiar fare. The best growth from January to June occurred in the American/Traditional category, with 5 percent more units, followed by Mexican restaurants (up 3.1 percent).

In contrast, the declines were seen in frozen desserts, with units down 1.1 percent. Kearns noted that since the data only reflects the first six months of 2012 it is difficult to determine whether declines in frozen desserts reflect seasonal patterns or consumers' efforts to eliminate unnecessary spending. While the number of traditional ice cream units declined, frozen yogurt is still performing well, largely due to consumer interest in healthier snack options.

Notable geographic differences were also apparent, with the three highest-growth states all located in the East. West Virginia topped the list with a 3.6 percent net increase in restaurant units, followed by New York (2.6 percent) and Connecticut (2.2 percent). Interestingly, the biggest declines also came from this region with Delaware losing 2.6 percent of its restaurant units in the first six months of 2012.

The new unit data is derived from one of several U.S. and international foodservice databases managed by CHD Expert, which has been collecting, managing and analyzing data for the Away-from-Home Global Foodservice Market for more than 10 years.

Read more about trends and statistics.

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