Motivated by mild winter weather consumers increased their visits to restaurants and other commercial foodservice outlets by 1% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter year ago, the strongest rate of traffic gain since the spring of 2008, reports The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD’s foodservice market research reports that US consumers spent 3% more at commercial foodservice outlets this winter than they did a year ago with over half of the increase coming from increased checks.

While the winter of 2012 was a strong quarter for the foodservice industry, traffic growth was confined to the quick service restaurant and fine dining/upscale hotel segments, according to NPD’s CREST, which rigorously tracks the foodservice industry based on consumer reporting of over 400,000 visits to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets a year. Visits to quick service restaurants increased by two percent over same quarter last year, and major quick service chains had the strongest traffic growth with a 3% increase in traffic. Fine dining/upscale hotel restaurants generated a 6% increase in traffic. The midscale/family dining segment continued to struggle with traffic in the first quarter with visits down by 3%. Visits to casual dining restaurants were down 2% compared to winter 2011.