It's been a rough few years for the hospitality industry as consumers have been scaling back on discretionary spending, and according to researchers, independent restaurants have been especially hard hit. A new report from market researchers NPD Group finds that overall, people countrywide are eating out less often since the recession, and the bulk of those lost restaurant customers were from independent eateries.
According to the study, Americans ate out 60.6 billion times in 2011. That's about the same numbers from 2010, but overall, restaurant visits are down from 62.7 billion in 2008.
Of those 2.1 billion visits lost since the recession began, 2 billion would have been to independent establishments.
Chains have fared better — NPD found that consumers are patronizing larger restaurant chains, which have added 4,511 units since 2009. But since fall of 2008, more than 7,000 independent spots have closed. In 2011, visits to chain restaurants were up 1% while meals at standalone businesses slumped 4%.
Small restaurant operations have been steadily losing market share to chains, who have more of a safety net to survive and thrive in rocky economic times.
“Independent restaurant operators have neither the money nor resources that the chains have,” says NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs “They lacked the marketing power to drive traffic and the monetary buffer to get through the difficult times during the past several years.”