Independent restaurants are feeling the crunch of the industry’s contraction more than most, dropping in restaurant count by 3 percent, according to data from research company NPD Group that compared restaurants at the end of May to one year ago.
Chain restaurants, on the other hand, continued to expand—increasing in location size by 1 percent, aided by a 7 percent increase in fast-casual units. The decline in independent restaurants was concentrated in the full-service sector.
During that period, overall restaurant count dropped by 1 percent, to 630,511 units, which the research company attributes to stalled traffic growth experienced by the industry over the last several years.
In the last five years, traffic at independent restaurants has fallen by 3 percent, NPD Group says. Those doing well have worked to leverage key areas for growth, such as the breakfast daypart, which is seeing customer-visit gains at quick-service restaurants and is holding steady at casual-dining spots.
“It’s a tough road for independent restaurants, particularly in a down or even ‘soft’ economic climate,” says Greg Starzynski, director of product management for NPD Foodservice. “Independent operators do not have the resources of a chain to sustain themselves in slower times.”