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Breakfast, better coffee pump up consumer spending in Dec., NPD says

PORT WASHINGTON N.Y. Quick-service breakfasts and specialty coffees helped to put 4 percent more dollars in restaurant tills during December than the industry collected during the same period of a year earlier, on a 3-percent rise in industrywide traffic, according to data released Tuesday by market research firm NPD Group.

According to consumer-reported figures from the firm’s Consumer Reports on Eating Share Trends database, or CREST, consumers spent about $33.55 billion during their 5.5 billion visits to commercial foodservice locations during December 2006

NPD’s database is based on self-recorded habits of what at least 35,000 consumers eat and spend on food each month.

Chain restaurants, which NPD describes as brands with three or more units, took the lion’s share of growth in December, as consumers spent 5 percent more and visited 4 percent more times than they did a year earlier. Independent restaurants garnered a 2-percent uptick in consumer-reported sales, but traffic was flat. 

The quick-service sector led the industry, with consumer spending up 5 percent and traffic up 4 percent, NPD reported. Both family-dining chains and casual dinnerhouses enjoyed sales increases of 3 percent but weathered flat traffic, according to the data.

NPD, based here, said it does not expect consumers to report the same levels of growth for January 2007.

January is going up against a very strong January 2006 when restaurant sales rose 7 percent and the country enjoyed its warmest January in 112 years,” NPD said.

Indeed, many restaurant operators reported strong same-store sales in December but weaker results in January, citing severe weather and tough comparisons from a year earlier. Still, the majority of quick-service chains reported continued growth while most dinnerhouses reported continued softness.

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