This past year the U.S. foodservice industry recovered the visits it lost during the Great Recession, and will end the year with a total traffic volume at 61 billion, visits up 1 percent and a consumer spending gain of 3 percent compared to same time last year, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company.  

Among the drivers behind the foodservice growth is the continuing strength of breakfast foods, quick service restaurant (QSR) traffic growth and menu innovation, and all things bacon, BBQ, and steak.  

NPD Group restaurant industry analyst, Bonnie Riggs, looked 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 accelerating. All day breakfast at McDonalds’ and burgers for breakfast at Burger King both seemed to satisfy consumers’ 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 consumers’ needs for quality, convenience, and value. Total growth for the QSR segment was 1 percent.

50+ Consumers
Older adults drove most of the industry traffic growth and will continue to 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 & Spicy 
Sriracha, Ghost Peppers, Jalapeño kicked up menus and consumer’s satisfaction. Hot and spicy appeals the most to Millennials and Gen Z.

As for the future, NPD Group forecasts foodservice total traffic to grow by 1 percent in 2016 and although this is modest growth, Riggs says the foodservice industry is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“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,” she says. “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.”