Number of independent restaurants drops, customers are choosing chains

Popeye’s, an Atlanta, Ga.-based fried chicken restaurant chain with locations in Cedar Rapids. Photographed on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Popeye’s, an Atlanta, Ga.-based fried chicken restaurant chain with locations in Cedar Rapids. Photographed on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The number of independent restaurants in the United States slipped three percent in the spring, while the number of chain restaurants slightly increased, according to researcher NPD Group.

The drop in independent restaurants mostly was in sit-down restaurants, as Americans increasingly favor grab-and-go or delivery options.

Among independent restaurants, sit-down establishments saw a three percent decline, while quick-service independent restaurants declined by two percent.

In total, there were 340,778 independent restaurants in spring 2015, and just 331,469 this spring, NPD said. The number of chain restaurants was virtually flat, rising slightly to 292,832 in spring 2016 from 291,794 in the same period a year ago.

Overall, the number of U.S. restaurants, both chain and not, fell one percent.

That’s due to stalled customer traffic growth over the past few years, NPD said. The decline in customers is being felt most notably with independent restaurants, NPD said.

Big chains also fared better in customer traffic than small ones, NPD said.

NPD predicts there will continue to be fewer independent restaurants — and a lack of growth in the industry overall — as customer traffic remains stagnant.

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