For the first time in four years, adult-only restaurant visits increased in 2012, but visits that included children remained flat for the second consecutive year, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. 

Adult-only visits increased by 1 percent, as did total restaurant traffic for the year ending December 2012, reports NPD Foodservice Market Research.

The two years of non-growth in restaurant visits with children, or what is called “parties with kids” in industry vernacular, followed three years of recession-related visit declines.

The lack of growth in the number of visits by parties with kids is among the contributors to the sluggishness in restaurant-industry traffic, but it’s also an opportunity for restaurant operators to increase share, according to a recently released NPD foodservice report, “Planning for Growth in the New Normal Marketplace.”

Parties with kids contributed $84 billion and 15 billion visits to the industry in 2012, reports NPD’s CREST, which captures more than 400,000 consumer restaurant visits a year with its daily tracking system. 

In the hamburger category alone, parties with kids account for $22 billion and 5 billion visits.   

“Our forecast is for sluggish restaurant demand over the next decade, which means operators will battle for market share,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Getting families with their children back into restaurants is certainly one of the ways in which they can grow revenue and increase share.

“We continually hear from families with kids that it’s too expensive to eat out,” she says. “Restaurant operators must understand their financial situation and reflect it in pricing of kids’ menu items and kids’ meals.” 

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