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Restaurant visits for breakfast are down one percent

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Ann Hermes/Staff/File

(Read caption) The breakfast menu at Jigger's Diner in East Greenwich, RI sports a variety of foods special to the state, including Johnnycakes. Breakfast traffic for restaurants declined by one percent in the first quarter of 2014.

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Customer traffic at breakfast has been among the few bright spots—and sometimes the only bright spot—for the restaurant business. Last year, morning-meal visits were up 3 percent while both lunch and dinner showed one percent declines, according to data from The NPD Group.

But in 2014 first quarter, even breakfast struggled. Morning visits were down one percent for all restaurants, compared with the same period last year, NPD reports. At QSRs, which showed a four percent gain in breakfast traffic in 2013, morning traffic was flat. Midscale/family restaurants, for many of which breakfast is a key daypart, saw a three percent decline in morning-meal customer counts in Q1.

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Lunch and dinner business declined across all segments, which NPD sees as a result of young adults ages 25 to 49 cutting back on restaurant visits.

But thanks in part to widespread bad weather, Q1 was tough for almost all restaurants: Overall traffic was down one percent. But consumers who didn’t want to go out for food weren’t deterred: Delivery orders were up four percent for the quarter. QSR coffee/donut/bagel restaurants saw a four percent traffic bump up.

Midscale/family and casual-dining sectors continue to decline. Midscale was down four percent compared with the same period a year ago. Traffic at casual dining was off two percent