From Mark Brandau at Nation's Restaurant News: The number of restaurants in the United States has fallen by 5,204
units, a 1-percent decline from the total number of eateries recorded in
spring of 2009, according to The NPD Group.
Independent restaurants took the hardest hits, while chains kept
their unit counts relatively stable, the market research firm’s “Spring
2010 ReCount” found.
ReCount takes stock of domestic commercial restaurant locations twice
a year, in the spring and fall. In the fall of 2009, the industry’s
unit count contracted 0.3 percent, or by 1,652 locations. The spring
2009 numbers were worse, with the industry losing a little more than
4,000 restaurants, comprising a 1-percent decrease in total overall
For the 12 months ended March 31, the number of quick-service
restaurants declined by 2,521 locations and the number of full-service
restaurants fell by 2,683 units, resulting in a 1-percent decrease
overall for both segments.
Within those sectors, independents fared worse than chain
competitors, the NPD found. In fast food, chains lost only 164 net
locations to remain flat for the 12-month period, while independent
quick-service restaurants lost 2,685 net units, a 3-percent decrease for
that time period.
Independent and chain full-service restaurants both logged 1-percent
declines in unit counts for the 12-month time frame, with independent
restaurants shedding 2,408 total units and chains dropping 275 net
“It’s been a difficult time for the restaurant industry, with
customer traffic down over the past year,” said Greg Starzynski,
director of product development for NPD’s foodservice division. “The
unit losses we’re seeing in our latest census are a reflection of the
weakness in the industry with the greatest impact on the independent
NPD’s CREST research service reported that visits to restaurants in
the United States declined by 3 percent for the 12 months ended in May
2010. Consumer spending at restaurants fell 1 percent in that same
period, the first decline in dollars the firm has reported since it
began tracking foodservice industry sales in 1976, NPD said.
Independent restaurants have suffered sales and traffic declines as
prolonged high unemployment has weakened consumer spending in many areas
of the country, creating less revenue from which operators can fund
crucial investments in marketing or equipment.
The relative stability of overall chain restaurant locations reflects
that, despite closures by brands like ESPN Zone, Fuddruckers and Uno
Chicago Grill, other concepts are picking up the slack.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, for example, is looking to expand
outside the United States because it has sold out its development rights
in the United States and Canada. According to Nation’s Restaurant News’
Top 100 report, Five Guys opened 171 locations in 2009. The chain
reported last week that its newest restaurant, in Sacramento, Calif.,
brought its total system to 632 locations.
Wingstop, which recently reported its 28th consecutive quarter of
increased same-store sales, plans to add 50 restaurants in 2010. The
chain's growth plans were a major draw to its new corporate parent,
Roark Capital Group, which acquired the 447-unit chain in April.
Another brand, 88-unit Buca di Beppo, has announced plans to resume
growth with four new restaurants in the Boston area. That chain had
closed underperforming units after a sale to Planet Hollywood
International in late 2008.