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Index: Year-over-year restaurant traffic growth slowed in 1Q

Growth in guest traffic at restaurants taking reservations in North America slowed in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2011’s first quarter, a new quarterly industry index indicates.

Overall, North America traffic at reservation-taking restaurants grew by 2.4 percent in 2012’s first quarter, compared with growth of 3.5 percent a year earlier, the index’s creator, online reservation services provider OpenTable Inc. of San Francisco, said Wednesday.

The metropolitan New York market was the only major market among five cited that saw greater growth in guest traffic at reservation-taking restaurants in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the first quarter of 2011, according to the OpenTable Restaurant Industry Index. Guest traffic rose 4.7 percent at reservation-taking restaurants in New York in the first quarter of 2012, versus an increase of 1.9 percent in the prior year’s first period.

Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area experienced growth in 2012’s first quarter, compared with the year-earlier quarter, but at a slower rate than 12 months earlier, index figures showed. Chicago’s guest traffic at reservation-taking restaurants rose 3.3 percent in the first quarter versus 3.4 percent a year earlier. The Bay Area’s first-quarter growth of 3.2 percent was nearly two points lower than its 5.1-percent growth in the year-earlier quarter.

The index indicated that guest traffic remained flat at Los Angeles metropolitan area restaurants in this year’s first quarter after rising by 5.2 percent a year earlier. Washington, D.C., guest traffic fell 1.6 percent in 2012’s first quarter after increasing 6 percent in the first quarter of 2011, the index indicated.

“We track the growth of the industry to obtain a macro-economic viewpoint based on the largest network of reservation-taking restaurants in North America,” Matt Roberts, OpenTable chief executive, said in an written statement about the new index. “We’ve observed the impact on the industry during the turbulent economic environment of the financial crisis, and over the course of the last two years we’ve seen the industry experience a modest growth rate in the 2 to 3 percent range.”

Traffic at North America’s reservation-taking restaurants, overall, and at such businesses in the five specified major metropolitan markets began growing again in 2010 after two years of decline. With the exception of the New York and Washington, D.C., markets, the rate of growth in guest traffic at restaurants taking reservations accelerated in 2011, index figures revealed.

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OpenTable said its new index is based on data gathered from more than 8,500 reservation-taking client restaurants in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The company said that the percentages shown in the index represents the year-over-year increase or decrease in the number of guests served in the sampled reservation-taking restaurants as recorded by those businesses in their reservation books. OpenTable also noted that the tallied guests include those consumers who honored reservations made by phone or online, as well as those who walked in without a reservation.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @AJ_NRN

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