Report: Americans Eating Out Less

McDonalds restaurant entrance, Wilmington, Delaware, 2007/1/24 AP

Visits to restaurants have fallen now for two straight years, although the decline lessened in the spring quarter, according to a report released Thursday by market research firm The NPD Group.

Traffic picked up for morning meals a major focus for fast-food chains Burger King and McDonald's but overall restaurant visits fell by 1 percent in the three-month period ending in June, the firm said. That was better than the 3 percent drop last year compared with 2008's second quarter.

Although traffic was down, spending rose 1 percent.

People have been limiting their trips out to eat to save money in the weak economy, which has hurt restaurants at all levels, from high-end to fast-food. The largest drop was in traffic at schools, universities, hospitals and other places that sell food but are not considered commercial restaurants; traffic there fell 6 percent.

Both fine dining and mid-scale chain traffic fell 3 percent in the spring quarter compared with last year's second quarter. In last year's second quarter, fine dining fell 6 percent, and mid-scale dining fell 4 percent.

Casual-dining, which is in between mid- and upscale and saw a 2 percent drop in traffic, compared with a 3 percent drop in last year's second quarter.

Traffic was unchanged at fast-food chains from the prior year, when it fell 2 percent.

Dinner traffic and lunch traffic both fell 2 percent.

NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs noted that restaurants are improving their performance with value menus such as $1 menus at fast-food chains.

The firm expects traffic to stabilize in the third quarter and start to recover in the final three months of the year.
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