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Consumers’ growing preference is for on-premise dining, NPD finds

Despite the industry’s push for takeout, delivery and catering sales, consumers are increasingly eating inside restaurants, according to a new NPD Group report.

The study found that dine-in visits increased by 1 percent during the year ending in May, while the number of to-go orders showed no increase over the level of a year ago. 

The upswing in on-premise dining further broadens the sales gap between eating in a restaurant and taking the food elsewhere to eat, NPD noted. It pegged dine-in restaurant sales for 2014 at $223.4 billion, or 53 percent of total industry intake, versus takeout and drive-thru sales of $200.3 billion, or 47 percent.

The growth of on-premise orders was particularly sharp for quick-service restaurants, which saw 5 percent more customers consume their meals and snacks in the dining room during the year ending in May, according to NPD.

The sharp upswing could reflect the growth within that sector of fast-casual concepts, most of which forego drive-thrus and acknowledge difficulties in capturing more to-go orders. A number are striving to boost off-premise orders by enabling customers to order and pay for to-go meals via their smartphones, and delivery arrangements with third-party services.

NPD’s numbers, which are based on consumers’ recordings of what, when and where they eat, differ sharply from other researchers’ data. The National Restaurant Association, for example, estimates that 75 percent of restaurant sales are generated through takeout, delivery and catering.

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