Casual dining finally stems loss of guests, NPD says

Casual dining’s traffic problems may have bottomed out, according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The researcher said today that customer visits to moderately priced full-service restaurants stabilized during the year that ended in February, after four years of guest-count declines.

The positive turn wasn’t enjoyed by all casual restaurants, however. NPD noted that the improvement all came within the chain market, with independents seeing a decline in visits.

The traffic gains were registered during the week, with weekend guest counts slipping, albeit at a more moderate rate than registered in prior years, NPD added. It attributed the attrition on weekends to declines in lunch sales, deal making and traffic from families.

Customers who visited casual establishments during the year spent an average of 3 percent more than they did the prior year, the NPD data show.

“It’s been a rough road for casual dining operators,” Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant-industry analyst, said in a prepared statement. “Major and small chains, which have the capital to hang in there and the marketing power to promote, are beginning to see the fruits of their labor.”


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