For the fifth consecutive year, the fast-casual segment’s growth in traffic far surpassed that of every other restaurant segment in the 12-month period ended in November 2013, according to new research from The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm found that total customer visits to fast-casual restaurants increased 8 percent for the 12 months ended last November, compared with flat traffic overall for all restaurant segments.


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Other restaurant segments did not see as much traffic as the fast-casual segment during the year. The quick-service segment recorded flat traffic compared with a year earlier, while total customer visits to casual-dining restaurants and midscale restaurants decreased 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Traffic at fine-dining establishments and upscale hotels rose 6 percent for the 12 months ended in November 2013.

“Overall, restaurant customers are trading down, foregoing some of their visits to full-service places while increasing the number of visits made to fast-casual restaurants,” Bonnie Riggs, The NPD Group’s restaurant industry analyst, said in a statement. “Fast-casual concepts are capturing market traffic share by meeting consumers’ expectations, while midscale and casual-dining places continue to lose share.”



According to The NPD Group’s CREST research service, total spending at fast-casual restaurants increased 10 percent for the 12 months ended last November.

The fast-casual segment’s average check was $7.40 during that period, higher than the $5.30 average for quick service but well below casual dining’s average of $13.66, The NPD Group noted.

The firm’s data also suggested that unit expansion contributed to fast casual’s traffic and sales growth last year. For the 12 months ended last November, the number of fast-casual chain locations in the United States rose by 903, or 6 percent, to 16,215 total units, The NPD Group reported.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN