All segments of the industry experienced traffic losses in the first quarter of 2010, according to NPD's CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of foodservice. The cheaper the food, the less traffic it has lost: QSRs are down 2 percent, continuing to hold up slightly better than midscale, which are down 4 percent; casual dining restaurants are down 3 percent; and fine dining/upscale hotel occasions are down 6 percent.
But there were some bright spots: The QSR pizza category, driven by aggressive marketing programs, led all categories in growing dollars and traffic, a turnaround that occurred after 12 consecutive quarters of declining customer counts.
And although restaurant traffic declined for the seventh consecutive quarter in the first quarter of 2010, the rate of visit losses began to ease compared to steeper declines in previous quarters, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD's foodservice market research reports that commercial restaurant traffic declined by 2 percent in the quarter, and consumer spending slipped just below (-0.3) year-ago levels. Improved performance in the morning meal day part and quick service restaurants (QSR), led by the pizza category, helped to soften traffic declines.
Consistent with the easing of commercial restaurant traffic declines, NPD's SalesTrac Weekly, which measures same-store sales trends for 47 of the largest quick service restaurant and family-style chains, reported an increase in same store sales for March and April 2010, following declines over year-ago for the prior nine months.
The morning meal day part at commercial restaurants was another bit of good news for the quarter, with traffic flat compared to a year ago. Traffic at supper, which has been slipping since 2006, declined by 4 percent and visits at lunch were down by 2 percent.