As goes the U.S. quick-service restaurant (QSR) segment, so goes the total foodservice industry. QSRs, which represent 80% of total commercial foodservice visits, realized no traffic growth in 2016 and total foodservice traffic dipped slightly, according to a report published by The NPD Group, Chicago. The study, “Foodservice Market Research & Business Solutions,” also shows that visits to full-service restaurants, which combined represent 20% of total industry traffic, declined last year.

Visit declines at lunch, which represents the largest daypart in terms of traffic share, was a major contributor to the U.S. foodservice industry’s traffic slump in 2016. Lunch visits declined by 2% at QSRs and all other foodservice outlets. Among the reasons lunch traffic is down are a smaller labor force participation rate, increase in number of employees working from home and more consumers shopping online and not grabbing a meal while they’re out shopping. Weekend, dinner and independent restaurant visit declines also prevented the industry from growing last year.

Though U.S. foodservice traffic isn’t growing, there were still close to 62 billion visits made to restaurants and other foodservice outlets last year, reports NPD Group. QSR consumer spending increased by 3% and by 2% for the total industry. All spending gains were driven by an increase in average eater check size. Other industry bright spots from 2016 were the continued strength of morning and afternoon snacks, drive-thru visits, combo meal deals and an increase in breakfast food servings.    

“The dynamics that have driven the foodservice industry for all these many decades are changing and changing quickly,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst. “As I’ve said many times before, there will always be a need for foodservice, but there is a shift in consumer attitudes and behavior, and the landscape is different. Operators and manufacturers need to heed the changing dynamics and adjust their strategies accordingly.”