Restaurant visits on a deal or discount increased across all segments in the first nine months of 2013 after declining in 2012, according to The NPD Group. NPD's foodservice market research reports that restaurant visits on a deal were up 2 percent in the year ending August 2013 compared to the same period year ago, when deal visits were down by 1 percent.

Against a backdrop of flat consumer visits across the total industry, restaurant visits based on a "buy some, get some"- or "two-for-a-deal"-type offers had the highest gain among all offers with a 14 percent increase over last year, according to NPD's CREST research, which continually tracks how consumers use restaurants.

Casual dining restaurants hoping to reverse steady traffic declines aggressively offered these types of deals throughout the year, and although they were able to offset losses, visits to casual dining were down 1 percent in the year ending August 2013.

Value menu visits were up 6 percent compared to last year, which helped push quick-service restaurant deal visits up 2 percent and kept visits to traditional QSRs stable in the period. Discounted price traffic was up 4 percent across all restaurant segments and visits on a coupon increased by 2 percent.

At the height of the recession, when industry traffic was down, deals and special offers drove industry restaurant visits. In 2008, visits on a deal were up 5 percent and non-deal traffic was down 1 percent, and in 2009 deal traffic was up 3 percent and non-deal traffic down 4 percent, reported NPD.

In 2012, after many of the promotions that emerged during the recession had been in existence a few years, restaurant deal visits declined by 3 percent and non-deal traffic was up 2 percent.

"In my view, the industry tried to move away from heavy discounting last year but found it was just not feasible with consumers still closely watching their spending," Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, said in an announcement of the research. "It is deal-related traffic that is keeping the industry from registering traffic losses. Casual Dining has really ramped up with its deals, but, unfortunately, it hasn't stopped traffic declines, which may mean that its deal offers aren't resonating with cost-conscious consumers."

Read more about trends and statistics.

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