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Fast food visits continue to decline in US

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Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News/AP/File

(Read caption) Signs for a Tim Hortons restaurant, foreground, and a Burger King restaurant are displayed along Peach Street in Erie, Penn. While overall foodservice visits are reaching all-time highs, not as many people are going to burger chain restaurants.

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While overall foodservice customer traffic is at its highest level in six years thanks to breakfast popularity and spending is up, customer counts at QSR burger chain restaurants continue to slip, according to new data from The NPD Group.

For the 12 months ended in May 2015, restaurant and foodservice visits were 61.1 billion, compared with 60.6 billion visits during the comparable period ended May 2010. However, customer traffic at QSR burger chain restaurants has declined by 3% over the past five years.

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However, traffic at independent burger restaurants was actually up 1% for the year ended May 2015 and is up 3.5% since the 12 months ended in May 2011. Traffic has dipped 2% at independents overall (all menu types) in the past five years.

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Total foodservice traffic rose 1% in the year ended May 2015; total QSR category saw traffic rise by 1%. Midscale/family-dining restaurants experienced a 3% decline over that period. Casual dining ended a long decline in traffic to remain flat.

A 3% increase in spending in the year ended May 2015 was driven by a higher average check average (itself driven by higher menu prices, no doubt).

Breakfast was the star daypart in the year ended May 2015, with customer traffic up 4%. QSRs accounted for most of the breakfast gains. Lunch and dinner were flat for the foodservice industry; afternoon snack traffic declined by 2%.