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Restaurant growth stalls… except for burgers

Independent burger-serving restaurants are reportedly the fastest-growing segment of the US restaurant industry, according to a recent survey.

NPD Group
Indie burger restaurants continue to grow fast than chain burger brands or the total industry, according to research from the analyst firm NPD Group.

The burger boom rolls on. The number of independent burger restaurants continues to increase at a rate faster than those for chain burger units, all quick-service or the total restaurant industry.

According to The NPD Group’s just-released Recount survey, a census of restaurants open as of Sept. 30, 2013, the total number of U.S. restaurants of all types increased by just 0.7% to 633,043 in the past year. That matches the 0.7% growth for the previous year.Chain restaurants, which account for 44.5% of all foodservice units, increased in number by 1% while the number of independents was essentially flat compared with 2012 at 351,430.

However, the number of quick-service burger restaurants increased by 1.2% thanks to the continuing surge in non-chain brands (1 to 2 locations). The number of independent (non-chain) burger joints increased by 7.2% (to 6,187) for the 12 months ending September 30. This year’s increase is more than twice the 2.9% growth indie burgers achieved the previous year.

Chain burger units increased in number 0.4% in the past year and have grown at less than 1% in each of the last three years. But with 44,981 locations, burger chain units greatly outnumber the independents.

The fast-casual category (any menu type) continues to grow, although not as fast as indie burger joints. For the year, fast casual added 902 locations (totaling 16,215) for a 6% increase. The number of quick-service restaurants of all menu types increased 2% to 333,970.

The beleaguered full-service category (encompassing casual dining, midscale/family dining and fine dining) saw a 1% unit decline to 299,073 restaurants.

Americans made 61 billion restaurant visits in the past year but that was essentially unchanged from the previous year. Said Greg Starzynski, NPD Foodservice director of product management, “The restaurant recovery continues to move slowly and as a result operators are taking a cautious approach to expansion. This conservative approach to restaurant unit expansion will continue into the foreseeable future.”

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