Cheque Increases, Not Visits, Feeding Canadian Restaurant Industry

Country’s total restaurant count increases by 1,039 units

TORONTO, October 22, 2013 – Canada’s billion-dollar foodservice industry remains stable, however its continued growth is not attributed to the number of consumers dining out. While foot traffic in restaurants remained flat in the year ending May 2013, there was a two-per-cent increase in consumer foodservice spending over the same period last year, with gains resulting from a higher average spend in diner cheques according to leading global information company The NPD Group.

Visits to quick service restaurants (QSRs), which represent 56 per cent of foodservice industry traffic, were flat in the year ending May 2013, but the segment posted a dollar gain of three per cent over same period last year, according to NPD’s CREST® service. QSR traffic was up one percent at morning meals and evening snacks, while visits at lunch were down three per cent.  Across the entire industry, casual dining at full-service restaurants (FSRs) had the strongest visit gains (three per cent), with spending up by two per cent.

“Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the demand for convenient dining options in Canada,” said Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at The NPD Group. “Fewer people are making time to enjoy their meals in restaurants, and many are spending more at establishments that offer speedy service.”

The need for speed is evidenced by the fact that the locations where people are eating their meals are also changing. Carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery dominate consumers’ foodservice visit choices, making off-premise dining the best performing option for all types of restaurants. When Canadians choose not to eat at restaurants, they typically enjoy their food at home (24 per cent of off-premise visits), in their cars (17 per cent), and at work (12 per cent).

According to The NPD Group’s 2013 ReCount® data, the number of commercial restaurant locations across the country increased slightly from 70,940 to 71,979 between December 2011 and 2012, a growth of one per cent. Of this group, chains are faring better than independents, showing a four-per-cent increase in unit growth compared to flat growth for independents.

“There is definitely an opportunity to grow on-premise dining and to help Canadians move away from the new norm: hurried eating,” continued Carter. “To attract consumers, restaurants will need to offer menu items and an overarching in-house experience that make diners feel it is worth the time to sit down for a meal.”

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Kim McLynn


The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

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