Restaurant guest counts in the second quarter of 2011 were nearly flat in the United States and the same or worse in most other markets around the world, according to a recent study from The NPD Group.
The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm tracked spending and traffic patterns for the foodservice industry across 10 global markets during the period. Total spending increased in every market — except Japan, which continues to recover from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami —mostly due to average check increases after menu price hikes.
Traffic was negative or flat everywhere except China, where guest counts rose 15.2 percent and the average check price increased 6.2 percent, compared with the same period last year, resulting in a total spending increase of 22.3 percent.
France and Italy showed slight guest count growth compared with the second quarter last year, with increases of 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, according to NPD’s CREST service. The United States, the United Kingdom and Germany had essentially flat restaurant traffic in the second quarter, NPD found.
Guest counts fell 1 percent in Canada, 1.4 percent in Australia, 3.2 percent in Japan and 6.2 percent in Spain.
“The foodservice industry is truly a bellwether of the economy and regardless of country, the consumers’ state of mind,” said Bob O’Brien, NPD global senior vice president of foodservice. “The second-quarter foodservice measures were a direct reflection of the times.”
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Average check prices rose everywhere except Japan, where consumer behavior has been affected by post-earthquake measures to conserve energy. China’s 6.2-percent rise led all countries’ average check increases, followed by Canada, 3.5 percent; Germany, 2.9 percent; Australia, 2.7 percent; the United States, 2.1 percent; and the United Kingdom and Italy, 1.2 percent. Average check amounts were essentially flat in France and Spain.
NPD said guest counts declined at full-service restaurants in most countries, but quick-service traffic increased in every market, including Japan. However, onsite foodservice traffic is down in every country due to high global unemployment, with France the only exception.
In the United States and around the world, economists are unable to forecast any significant improvement in employment levels, making the future for foodservice traffic uncertain at best, researchers said.
“With so much uncertainty surrounding the local and global economy, consumer confidence remains low,” said Guy Fielding, managing director for NPD’s United Kingdom foodservice division. “Hence it is difficult to forecast any real improvement in foodservice traffic.”