CHICAGO — U.S. restaurant traffic will grow less than 1% per year during the next decade — failing to keep pace with the 1.1% growth in U.S. population during that time — according to a forecast published by the NPD Group.
The report, “A Look into the Future of Foodservice,” bases its projections on the relative aging of the U.S. population, low forecasts for U.S. population growth and recent trends, and estimates that total annual visits to restaurants will increase a total of 8% during the next 10 years. This would represent a decline in annual visits per capita, from 197.1 in 2009, to 191.5 in 2019.
“The aging effect on the restaurant industry will be slightly negative because of aging Baby Boomers,” NPD restaurant industry analyst and report author Bonnie Riggs explained in a release. “A greater share of visits will source to those 50 years and older in 2019, but as consumers age they become less frequent restaurant users. This means the restaurant industry will have heavier dependence on lighter buyers.”
Supermarket prepared-food departments could potentially turn this trend to their advantage. In a separate NPD report published this summer, U.S. consumers expressed a slight preference for supermarket prepared foods vs. restaurant takeout in several categories, including convenience, price, variety and selection of healthy choices. Customers still preferred quickservice restaurants when they had special cravings, wanted a special menu item, wanted something for their children, or wanted to use a drive-through.