In 2015, the U.S. foodservice industry recovered the visits it lost during the Great Recession and ended the year with a total traffic volume at 61 billion, with visits up 1 percent and a consumer spending gain of 3 percent compared to the previous year, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm covering the foodservice industry.
NPD Group forecasts foodservice total traffic to grow by 1 percent in 2016.
"It has been a long, slow recovery but the foodservice industry has recovered nearly all of the steep traffic losses incurred after the recession began in 2008," says Bonnie Riggs, an analyst for NPD Group. "QSRs have and will continue to support the traffic gain, while casual dining visits are forecast to hold steady and midscale to decline by 1 percent. With continued focus on consumers' ever-changing wants and needs, the industry can alter the current forecast of minimal growth. After all, forecasts are not cast in stone; they are to be used as a guideline and something to work against."
The drivers behind foodservice growth in 2015 included the continuing strength of breakfast foods, quick-service restaurant traffic growth and menu innovation, as well as all things bacon, BBQ and steak.
Here Riggs looks back at several of the winning growth drivers in the foodservice market this past year:
- Morning still hot: Breakfast is still the fastest growing foodservice daypart and it is accelerating. All-day breakfast at McDonalds and burgers for breakfast at Burger King both seemed to satisfy consumer needs.
- Quick-service restaurants: Quick-service restaurants (QSR) were the strongest performing segment, representing 79 percent of all foodservice visits. The QSR fast-casual category increased visits by 8 percent and retail convenience store foodservice traffic grew by 2 percent. These two top-growing QSR categories are on opposite ends of the price spectrum but both are meeting the consumer need for quality, convenience and value. Total growth for the QSR segment was 1 percent.
- 50-plus-year-old consumers: Older adults drove most of the industry traffic growth and will continue to do in the future.
- Meat focus: Everything BBQ, bacon and steak with compelling offerings from places like Arby's, Carl's Jr., Wendy's, Taco Bell and Applebee's
- Hot and spicy: Sriracha, ghost peppers, and jalapeños kicked up menus and consumer satisfaction. Hot and spicy appeals the most to Millennials and Gen Z.