Global Lunch Traffic Improves but Major Chain Visits Weaken

CHICAGO – Lunch visits at foodservice outlets in several countries improved for the second consecutive quarter. This marks a turn in a long-term trend of weak lunch traffic around the world, reports foodservice researcher The NPD Group. The paradox is that restaurant chains, which had the most resilient demand from the market coming out of the global economic crisis, saw visits flat or down in the majority of the global markets tracked by NPD during the first quarter of 2015.

China and Russia, both of which have experienced store visit declines in the past quarters after strong growth in previous quarters, demonstrate how things can swing from good to bad and then back in a hurry in a developing country. Australia and Great Britain continued their slow and steady traffic growth in the first quarter of this year, according to NPD's Crest foodservice market research, which continually tracks consumer use of foodservice outlets in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, and the United States.

Traffic in France, Spain, and the United States remained stable. But visits declined in Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan in the first quarter of 2015 compared to year ago.

Lunch visits grew in the quarter for Australia, China, and Great Britain. The only other country to see a rise in lunch traffic was Canada; however, overall traffic for all dayparts there declined. Lunch traffic is ultimately tied to employment. NPD finds that lunch visits are not growing in countries with high unemployment, such as Spain and France.

Visits to major restaurant chains, the backbone of the global foodservice industry, increased in Australia, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States, but in contrast to what had been a positive trend, declined in China, France, Germany, and Russia in the first quarter of this year. Small and independent chains in Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Spain continued to struggle in the quarter to increase traffic.

"The visit growth we've seen at lunch this quarter is a positive sign, certainly it's reflective of an improving employment picture in many countries," said Bob O'Brien, global foodservice analyst for NPD. "Lunch is the engine and if it's not driving the global foodservice industry, you can't say it's a healthy industry."

Profile picture for user BMM