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"There are a variety of factors contributing to the declines in restaurant visits and spending, including high unemployment, and another is the difference between food prices at home and food prices away-from-home," Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president at NPD, said in a news release. "Food prices at supermarkets are less than a year ago, while restaurant prices are higher than a year ago."
To appeal to price-conscious consumers, restaurants have been aggressive in offering deals over the past year. Deal-related visits to restaurants remained the only area of increase in the summer quarter, despite a tough year-ago comparison of 9 percent, NPD reports. Deal-related visits increased by 2 percent and non-deal visits fell -5 percent in the summer quarter ending in August. The increase in dealing this summer was traced to coupons, especially Internet coupons, "buy some/get some free," and discounted pricing. More than half of the increase in dealing came from casual dining chains.
NPD said it expects foodservice traffic growth to remain weak until the second half of 2010.
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