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QSR Traffic Stalls, Full Service Visits Down in 2016

As goes the U.S. quick service restaurant (QSR) segment, so goes the total foodservice industry. QSRs, which represent 80 percent of total commercial foodservice visits, realized no traffic growth in 2016 and total foodservice traffic dipped slightly, according to a foodservice researcher. Visits to full service restaurants, which combined represent 20 percent of total industry traffic, declined last year, records NPD Group's daily tracking of consumers' use of restaurants and other foodservice outlets.

Visit declines at lunch, which represents the largest daypart in terms of traffic share, was a major contributor to the U.S. foodservice industry's traffic slump in 2016. Lunch visits declined by 2 percent at QSRs and all other foodservice outlets. Among the reasons lunch traffic is down are an increase in employees working at home, and more consumers shopping online. Those online shoppers are not grabbing meals like before when they were shopping outside. Weekend, dinner, and independent restaurant visit declines also prevented the industry from growing last year.

Although U.S. foodservice traffic is not growing, there were still close to 62 billion visits made to restaurants and other foodservice outlets last year, reports NPD Group. QSR consumer spending increased by 3 percent and by 2 percent for the total industry. All spending gains were driven by an increase in average eater check size. Other industry bright spots last year were the continued strength of morning and PM snack, drive-thru visits, combo meal deals, and an increase in breakfast food servings.

"The dynamics that have driven the foodservice industry for all these many decades are changing and changing quickly," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group restaurant industry analyst. "As I've said many times before, there will always be a need for foodservice but there is a shift in consumer attitudes and behavior and the landscape is different. Operators and manufacturers need to heed the changing dynamics and adjust their strategies accordingly."

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email