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U.S. restaurant industry traffic will remain stalled in 2017 in much the same manner it did in 2016, reports global researcher The NPD Group. This year will bring little to no gains in consumer visits for the total U.S. foodservice market.
In contrast, Quick service restaurants will have an increase of consumer visits by roughly 1 percent, which will be better than their stagnation in 2016. The modest gain for fast-food outlets will offset the anticipated 2 percent decline for full service restaurants, resulting in no-growth traffic for the industry overall, according to NPD Group's daily tracking of U.S. consumers' use foodservice.
"Restaurant operators are in a position to alter the current forecast, but will need to differentiate themselves from the competition," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group's restaurant industry analyst. "In the year ahead, it will be critical for them to stay relevant in consumers' minds, focusing on innovative products, unique promotions, competitive pricing, stating the benefits of eating at restaurants vs. home, and delivering an enjoyable experience."
Opportunities in a flat marketplace?
NPD suggests that more restaurants are looking to deliver, especially with the help of new third-party delivery service providers. These third-party delivery services, like Grubhub, Amazon and DoorDash, are becoming competitors to traditional delivery options. The researcher notes that taking advantage of the increasing popularity of delivery will provide restaurant operators with another avenue to drive traffic.
Mobile ordering is another differentiator. Mobile ordering will grow exponentially, according to NPD. The researcher says that Domino's is a prime example of the opportunity that exists with this technology. The chain has been on the leading edge of creating ways for customers to place their orders using numerous platforms. In 2017 many more restaurant operators will follow suit and capitalize on this growth opportunity.