Restaurant consumers in the United States showed a growing appetite for breakfast last year, increasing their visits at the morning meal by 3 percent, while traffic for most other dayparts fell, according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm found that U.S. consumers made more than 12.5 billion visits at breakfast time for the 12 months ended December 2013, marking the third consecutive year of increased breakfast traffic. Guest counts for the morning meal were essentially flat for 2010 before rising 2 percent, 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, over the next three years.

However, traffic declined 1 percent last year for both the lunch and dinner dayparts, which both have greater overall shares of total restaurant visits, according to NPD. While morning meals account for 21 percent of all visits, lunch and dinner account for 34 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

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The evening snack daypart, which accounts for 14 percent of total restaurant traffic, showed a 1-percent increase in guest counts for the 12 months ended December 2013, NPD found.

“Breakfast continues to be a bright spot for the restaurant industry, as evidenced by the number of chains expanding their breakfast offerings and times,” Bonnie Riggs, the company’s restaurant industry analyst, said in a statement. “A restaurant morning meal serves a variety of needs. In addition to helping us jump-start our day, it satisfies the need for convenience, is less costly than other restaurant meals and is readily available to us.”

NPD reported in a previous study that total restaurant traffic was flat overall for most of last year. The report, which tracked data for the 12-month period ended November 2013, found that guest counts in the quick-service segment were flat overall, but also found that the fast-casual subsegment — which is included under quick service in NPD’s research — recorded an 8-percent gain in traffic for the period.

Total customer visits to casual-dining restaurants and midscale restaurants decreased by 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively, during the period, the previous study found.

The results of NPD’s latest report on traffic by daypart track closely with previous data, as the quick-service segment led other parts of the industry with a 4-percent increase in guest counts at breakfast. Quick service accounts for 80 percent of all morning meal visits. By contrast, midscale and family-dining brands, the other large source of breakfast traffic in the United States, recorded a 3-percent decline.

In a separate report, “A Look into the Future of Foodservice,” NPD projected more growth in guest counts at the morning meal in the near future. Forecasts for breakfast traffic call for a 7-percent increase over the next nine years, with quick-service brands’ morning traffic expected to grow 9 percent over that time.

Contact Mark Brandau at
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