Industry News | September 9, 2009

Global Foodservice Traffic Down, But Is It Out?

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A recent report from market-research company NPD Group concluded that foodservice traffic around the globe dropped in the first quarter of 2009, showing signs of weakened international economies.

NPD’s CREST reported on foodservice trends in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., showing a decline in traffic in each country except Canada, where traffic was flat. Japan, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom also experienced drops in total spending at foodservice outlets.

“It was different to see so much of the industry around the world heading in the same direction,” says Bob O’Brien, senior vice president of global foodservice at NPD Group. “It was all up or it was all down, that’s what was surprising about it, because they’re not all the same place, they’re all different eating habits, the industries are developed in different ways, and they serve slightly different needs.”

In the U.S., foodservice traffic was down 1.5 percent from the first quarter of 2008, while spending at foodservice outlets was up 2 percent. The United Kingdom experienced the biggest fall in foodservice traffic, declining 5.5 percent, while spending dropped the sharpest in Japan and Spain, at 1.9 percent.

Quick-service traffic fell in each country except Japan.

O’Brien says that while the foodservice industry isn’t expected to bounce back anytime soon, he doesn’t expect as sharp a decline in the second quarter. Part of it, he explains, is that some international economies are already showing signs of improvement.

“Things are looking up in Germany, France, and in Japan,” O’Brien says. “Whereas last year you could have said, ‘Well all the economies look bad,’ you can’t say that now. As an American it’s hard to believe because it just doesn’t look good [here].”

Despite positive signs in other nations’ economies, O’Brien says that growth in their foodservice industries does not necessarily suggest growth in that of the U.S.

“The United States could be flat for a long time,” he says. “I’m not an economist, but it’s a very different situation [here]. So that would lead you to think that the industries will recover very differently.”

By Sam Oches

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