U.S. restaurant unit count declined by 1 percent, or a loss of 5,204 restaurants, this spring compared to spring 2009, according to foodservice market research by The NPD Group, a market research company. NPD’s Spring 2010 ReCount, which is a census of commercial restaurant locations in the U.S. compiled in the spring and fall each year, reports that independent restaurant closings contributed to most of the decline, while chain units remained relatively stable.

According to NPD’s Spring 2010 ReCount, which was collected from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010, the number of quick-service restaurants declined by 1 percent, or 2,521 units. Full-service restaurant units, which includes the casual-dining, mid-scale, and fine-dining segments, also experienced a unit loss of 1 percent, or 2,683 units.

“It’s been a difficult time for the restaurant industry with customer traffic down over the past year,” says Greg Starzynski, director of product development-foodservice at NPD. “The unit losses we’re seeing in our latest census are a reflection of the weakness in the industry with the greatest impact on the independent restaurant operators.”

According to The NPD Group’s CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets, visits to U.S. restaurants declined by 3 percent for the year ending May 2010 compared to a year ago. Consumer spending at restaurants declined by 1 percent, the first decline in dollars NPD has reported since it began tracking the foodservice industry in 1976.

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