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Restaurant growth sluggish in the US

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Steak 'n Shake/PrNewsFoto/File

(Read caption) Customers order at the Steak 'n Shake signature restaurant in New York. Restaurant growth was flat in the US in the second quarter of 2012.

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The NPD Group says the total number of U.S. restaurants stood at 635,494 in its Spring (March) 2014 count. That’s flat compared with the 633,043 count for Fall 2013 and shows growth of just 0.8% since the Spring 2013 census.

The 351,359 independent restaurants in the Spring 2014 count account for 55.3% of the total. That’s down slightly from 55.5% in Spring 2013 but up a bit from a 54.7% share in Spring 2012. NPD says the number of independents declined by 71 since last fall but is up 0.4% (1,284) compared with a year ago

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Chain restaurants’ share of the total number of restaurants stands at 44.7%. NPD says the number of chains has risen by 3,718 over the past year while independents have added 1,284 restaurants since the Spring 2013 count. Since Spring 2012, however, the number of independent restaurants has increased by 13,654; chain restaurants have increased by just 7,380.

Customer visits to major chain restaurants was flat for the 12 months ended June 2014, NPD says. Traffic for independents has dipped 1% over that period.

Quick-service restaurants continue to grow in number while the full-service category drifts lower. NPD counted 337,667 QSRs, a 2% gain from a year ago, but the 297,827 full-service restaurants was down 2,156 or 2% from Spring 2013.

For the year ended June 2014, NPD says the total number of consumer restaurant visits was flat compared with the previous year. QSR traffic was flat but casual-dining visits were down 3% and midscale restaurants saw a 4% decline.

Said Greg Starzynski, director-product management, NPD Foodservice: “Prior to the recession when industry traffic was strong and money was more available, the industry expanded units rapidly but in today’s market unit growth must be a calculated risk.”