The U.S. restaurant count reached 660,755 in spring of 2018, a 1 percent decrease in units from a year ago, based on a recent restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The primary source of the decline in U.S. restaurant units was a 2 percent drop in independent restaurant units compared to a stable restaurant chain count, reports NPD’s Spring ReCount, a census of commercial restaurant locations in the U.S. compiled in the spring and fall each year.
Restaurant chain counts grew to 307,940 units, which kept the total chain count flat compared to spring 2017. The total number of independent restaurants stood at 352,815 units, a decrease of 5,719 units from last year. Total quick-service restaurant units declined by 1 percent to 357,766 due to the drop in quick-service independent units. Full-service restaurant units, which include casual dining, family dining, and fine dining restaurants, stood at 302,989 units in spring 2018, a 1 percent decline, according to NPD’s ReCount, which includes in its spring 2018 census all restaurants open as of March 31, 2018.
While the number of independent restaurant units in the U.S. dropped by 2 percent, the independent restaurant units remaining open represent over half of all U.S. commercial restaurants. Independent commercial restaurant operators are forecast to spend $43 billion with foodservice manufacturers and broadline foodservice distributors in 2020, a 3.4 percent compounded annual growth rate over 2018 and will represent 15 percent of total restaurant operator spend, according to NPD’s Foodservice Future Views, which sizes operator spend by foodservice markets and product categories. In the year ending June 2018, cases shipped from broadline foodservice distributors to independents increased by 4 percent.
“The restaurant unit declines we captured in our spring 2018 census are reflective of the sluggish restaurant traffic the industry has been experiencing over the last several years,” says Annie Roberts, vice president of NPD’s SupplyTrack, ReCount, and Foodservice Future Views research services. “It takes a lot of resources and capital to withstand tougher times, and an experience and offering that keeps customers coming back.”