Visits to quick-service restaurants, which represent the bulk of global foodservice traffic, were more a reflection of consumer sentiment than each country’s economic state in the fourth quarter of last year, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Visits grew in Australia, Canada, China, Great Britain, and United States where consumer confidence is higher or improving in spite of recovering, slowing or stabilizing economies. Traffic was flat in Japan, Russia, and Spain expressing decreasing consumer confidence in the weakened economies of Japan and Russia and increased consumer confidence as a result of an improving economy in Spain. High unemployment in France, a strengthening German economy, and negative consumer sentiment in a prolonged economic downturn in Italy contributed to quick service visit declines in these countries, according to NPD’s global foodservice market research.
Traffic gains to quick-service restaurants often came at the expense of visit losses at full-service restaurants in economically unstable countries as a result of consumers trading down to less expensive meals. Full service visits dipped in Canada, France, Italy, Russia, and Spain. Consumers in China, Germany, Great Britain, and the U.S. increased their visits to full-service restaurants, reports 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 U.S.
Overall, the last quarter of 2014 marked a slight turnabout for the global foodservice market. Total foodservice industry traffic was down in Canada while up in the U.S., a different scenario compared to the past few years. Great Britain remained the strongest European country, and traffic increased in Germany. Foodservice traffic was weak in the rest of continental Europe. China once again showed the strongest traffic growth as the market recovered from weak performance in 2013. Total foodservice traffic in Russia dropped by 2 percent due to a sharp decline in consumer confidence based on economic uncertainty.
“The quick-service restaurant segment serves a variety of consumer needs regardless of positive or negative sentiment,” says Bob O’Brien, global senior vice president foodservice. “For those consumers who are optimistic, quick service serves their need for convenience and grabbing a meal or snack on-the-go, and for those less positive quick service enables them to treat themselves to an affordable meal out.”