The number of restaurants in the United States was 647,288 in the autumn of 2017, a two percent decrease from a year ago, based on a recent count made by the Port Washington, New York-headquartered NPD Group. The primary source of the decline was a three percent drop in independent restaurant units compared to a stable restaurant chain tally, according to the market research company’s Fall 2017 ReCount, a census of commercial restaurant locations in the United States compiled in the spring and fall each year.
Restaurant chain counts grew to 301,183, an increase of 982 units, which kept the total chain tally flat compared to the fall of 2016. The total number of independent restaurants declined to 346,105 units, a decrease of 10,952 from last year. Quick service restaurants (QSR) declined by one percent to 353,121. Fast casual chains, which are a restaurant category under QSR, increased units by four percent to a total of 25,118. Full service restaurant units, which include casual dining, family dining, and fine dining restaurants, stood at 294,167 in the fall 2017, a two percent decline.
According to NPD’s CREST restaurant industry tracking service, restaurant traffic in the United States was flat in 2017. Had it not been for a one percent increase in quick service restaurant visits, an increase primarily driven by chains, traffic would have declined.
“The US restaurant count is reflective of what’s happening in the foodservice industry today overall,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “To expand or not expand units is a calculated decision on the part of restaurant operators. Chains simply have more monetary resources to grow units whereas independents do not.”