Lunch visits at foodservice outlets in several global markets improved for the second consecutive quarter, which marked a turn in a long-term trend of weak lunch around the world, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Foodservice chains, which were the most resilient part of the market coming out of the global economic crisis, saw visits flat or down in the majority of the global markets tracked by NPD during the first quarter of 2015.

China and Russia, both of which have experienced visit declines in the past quarters after strong growth in previous quarters, demonstrated in their own way how things can swing from good to bad and back in a hurry in a developing market.  Australia and Great Britain continued their slow and steady traffic growth in the first quarter of this year, according to NPD’s CREST foodservice market research, which continually tracks consumer use of foodservice outlets in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, and the United States. Traffic in France, Spain, and the U.S. remained stable, and visits declined in Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan in the first quarter of 2015 compared to year ago. 

Lunch foodservice visits grew in the quarter in Australia, China, and Great Britain, the countries with the strongest restaurant industries. The only other country to see lunch traffic rise was Canada, but overall traffic in the country declined. Lunch traffic is ultimately tied to employment, and NPD finds that lunch visits are not growing in countries with high unemployment, such as Spain and France.

Visits to major restaurant chains, the backbone of the global foodservice industry, increased in Australia, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States, but in contrast to what had been a positive trend, declined in China, France, Germany, and Russia in the first quarter of this year. Small and independent chains in Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Spain continued to struggle in the quarter to increase traffic.

“The visit growth we’ve seen at lunch this quarter is a positive sign, certainly it’s reflective of an improving employment picture in many countries,” says Bob O’Brien, global foodservice analyst for NPD. “Lunch is the engine and if it’s not driving the global foodservice industry, you can’t say it’s a healthy industry.”

Consumer Trends, News, NPD Group