The researcher said the rate of growth was slowest of the past five months. The NPD Group surmised that the slowdown partially reflects a comparison to a very strong January 2006, when the country saw its mildest temperatures in 112 years.
According to NPD's CREST service, customer traffic to restaurants in January 2007 dipped slightly below the level registered in January 2006, due to fewer quick-service and midscale restaurant visits. The 2% growth in foodservice sales traces totally to an increase in the average check paid per person, it said. After seeing flat customer traffic in December 2006 (versus a year ago), and a modest decline in November 2006 (versus a year ago), casual dining restaurants registered a modest gain in January 2007, the researcher reported.
According to Michele Schmal, vice president of The NPD Group's CREST Product Management, "Commercial Foodservice weakness continues to trace to the industry's core dayparts of lunch and supper. Neither matched the strong traffic registered in the mild January of 2006."
Schmal continued, "Still, consumers continue to expand their appetites for morning meals and P.M. snacks that are prepared away from home. Foodservice morning meals may be satisfying the need that time-crunched consumers have for convenience in the morning. And, foodservice seems to be responding to this demand with innovative new food and coffee products."