The post-summer back to business and school as usual kept US restaurant transactions flat in September compared to year ago, reports The NPD Group. The month started out with transactions up but flattened as the month went on, according to NPD’s CREST Performance Alerts, which provides a rapid weekly view of chain-specific transactions and share trends for 73 quick service, fast casual, midscale, and casual dining chains.

In related news, US consumers are giving themselves permission to enjoy indulgent snacks, reports The NPD Group. Their permission to enjoy sweet snacks is the result of the wellness-driven acknowledgement that balance is the key. Brands are supporting their consumers’ quest for balance by offering snacks that walk the line between health and indulgence, like portion-control packs, thinner versions, or nutrient-enhanced sweet snacks, finds NPD’s recently released Future of Snacking report. 

“The role of snack food is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans’ desire for balance, portable snack foods, and holistic wellness,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “It’s no longer about depriving yourself of something you enjoy eating. Today it’s about giving yourself permission to eat indulgent snack foods in moderation.”

Transactions at quick service restaurant (QSR) chains, which represent the bulk of industry transactions, were flat in September compared to year ago. While the full service segments of casual dining and midscale/family dining chains each saw transactions decline by 2% in the month from same period last year.

“Historically, September is a slower month for the restaurant industry and this September there wasn’t any one promotion driving transactions,” says Portalatin. “We’re forecasting the year will end with restaurant visits flat and dollars up by 3%, but forecasts aren’t set in stone. Innovative promotions, popular menu offerings, and any efforts that engage and excite restaurant consumers could change the outcome.”