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More Americans dine in at restaurants than take their food to-go

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Joanne Ciccarello/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(Read caption) Patrons sit down and start eating their meals at the Davenport Maple Farm restaurant in Shelburne, Mass. The number of consumers dining in at restaurants has increased 1 percent since last year, according to The NPD Group.

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Consumers increasingly are taking a seat and eating meals in restaurants rather than picking up takeout or drive-thru meals to eat elsewhere, according to new data from The NPD Group.

On-premises dining has increased for three consecutive years and continues to grow while off-premises dining has been flat or down. For the 12 months ended in May 2015, dine-in visits were up 1 percent and takeout/drive-thru visits remained unchanged. For calendar year 2014, dine-in traffic was up 2 percent and off-premises visits declined by 1 percent. Sit-down dining represented $223.4 billion in restaurant sales last year; takeout/drive-thru sales were $200.3 billion or 47.3 percent of the total, NPD reports.

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Quick-service restaurants have driven the shift in favor of in-restaurant dining: on-premises meals were up 5 percent at QSRs in 2015 and are up 3 percent for the 12 months ended in May. Takeout/drive-thru visits were flat for that period. This tilt in favor of sit-down dining may be the result of the continued growth of fast-casual concepts.

On-premises diners spend more than takeout/drive-thru diners, NPD says, but they are not necessarily loyal to their chosen restaurants. Just 34 percent of in-restaurant diners call themselves loyal, while 24 percent say they aren’t loyal at all and 42 percent are in the middle (somewhat loyal). But dine-in customers are in your restaurant: Give them reasons to return.