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NPD: U.S. Restaurant Unit Count Flat in '08

NPD’s latest ReCount®, a census of commercial restaurant locations in the United States conducted in the spring and fall each year, shows restaurant industry unit count flat in 2008, compared to 2 percent growth in 2007.

According to NPD’s fall 2008 ReCount, major and midsize chain restaurants, led by the largest chains (500+ units), were up 1 percent. Smaller chains (3 to 49 units) and independent units declined. The family dining segment is contracting across all system types while the QSR segment continued to add units, though at a much slower rate. The fine dining segment saw the sharpest decline in units, led by independents. Fine dining chains, which represent a small portion of the segment, continued to expand.

“In any given year, chains are opening and closing units based on performance and other factors,” said Greg Starzynski, director, product development-foodservice at NPD. “However, the recession this past year has had the most negative impact on the small chains and independents, and full service restaurants that were performing poorly prior to the economic downturn.”

In terms of restaurant unit counts by geography, NPD finds that the West United States Census Bureau Region increased its total restaurant units by 1 percent, whereas the Northeast census region decreased restaurant units by 1 percent. The South census region stayed flat compared to a year ago and the North census region decreased units by 1 percent.

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