Consumer spending at restaurants in the major global markets tracked by The NPD Group’s CREST service varied in the first quarter of 2012, reflecting the world economy’s mixed bag of recovery and retrenchment.
China’s foodservice industry far outpaced all global competitors, as total spending in the country rose 25.6 percent in the first quarter, comprising gains of 13.4 percent in the market’s average check and 11 percent in traffic.
Positive traffic in Canada and Japan, and to a lesser extent in the United States, led to total-spending growth in those markets for the first quarter. Canada’s 5.1-percent increase in consumer restaurant spending resulted from a 4.8-percent gain in traffic and a 0.3-percent increase in average check.
Japan posted its second consecutive quarter of traffic growth with a 3.3-percent gain that combined with a 0.6-percent lift in average check to yield a 3.9-percent jump in total consumer spending at restaurants. Japan had produced several quarters of traffic and average check growth before the March 2011 tsunami and apparently is starting to return to form, NPD noted.
In the United States, consumer restaurant spending increased 2.8 percent in the first quarter, reflecting gains of 0.7 percent in traffic and 1.9 percent in average check.
“The first quarter of the year brought a mix of good and bad news for the global foodservice industry,” Bob O’Brien, senior vice president of global foodservice for NPD, said in a statement. “While a recovery of the global foodservice industry seemed possible at the end of 2011, lack of consumer confidence and economic uncertainty entering into the new year may have put the recovery on hold for the time being.”
Germany’s results in the first quarter were indicative of slowing consumer confidence in Europe, as its 3.2-percent gain in total spending came entirely from average check, which rose 3.6 percent and offset a 0.4-percent dip in traffic. Of the major European markets tracked by CREST, only France had positive traffic in the first quarter, with a modest 0.7-percent gain.
France’s 1.1-percent increase in average check drove it to a 1.9-percent jump in total spending. Italy, whose market’s total spending dipped 0.7 percent, slightly offset traffic declines with a slightly higher average check. Italy’s traffic fell 1.4 percent, but its average check inched up by 0.8 percent.
Spain, which is suffering from some of Europe’s worst unemployment rates, had the largest total-spending decline of CREST’s major markets — 2.3 percent — reflecting losses of 1.5 percent for traffic and 0.8 percent for average check.
Similar to Germany and Italy, Australia’s average check increase slightly blunted the effect of a traffic decline. The country’s total spending inched up 0.2 percent, resulting from a 1.7-percent increase in average check offsetting a 1.4-percent decline in traffic.
The United Kingdom’s total spending was flat in the first quarter, but from the opposite combination. A 0.9-percent lift in traffic offset a 0.8-percent decrease in the country’s average check.
The NPD Group is based in Port Washington, N.Y. The market research company's CREST group tracks commercial foodservice usage in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.