Visits increase, too, according to NPD's Spring 2012 ReCount study.
The number of U.S. restaurants grew by 0.5 percent between the spring of 2012 and the same time frame in 2011, according to the most recent restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group. Total restaurant units reached 592,960, an increase of 2,872 units and the first positive change since 2009.
The number of independent restaurants grew to 320,193, an increase of 984 locations that reversed a decline that had been taking place since 2009, according to NPD's Spring ReCount, which includes restaurants open as of March 31, 2012. Chain restaurant units increased by 1,888 to 272,367.
Some other facts of note from the Spring ReCount include: