According to a new report from food industry research firm NPD Group,
last year the total number of chain restaurants increased by more than
3,200 locations while over 7,100 independent eateries closed up shop in
Total restaurant visits last year were up by 700 million compared to
five years earlier, almost returning to pre-recession levels. But
according to NPD, many restaurants—which the group defines as eateries
—were hit hard by the recession and are struggling to recover since
smaller restaurants don’t have the capital to recover as quickly.
“Chains have been heavily investing in advertising and ‘dealing’ to
drive customer traffic these past several years and independents don’t
have the resources to compete,” NPD spokeswoman Kim McLynn told Buzzfeed.
On average, fast food chain restaurants grew by 1.5 percent last year
while visits to full service restaurants declined. Starbucks added 559
U.S. locations in 2015 while Dunkin’ Donuts added 349 outlets. Both Taco
Bell and Chipotle each added about 200 stores in the same time period.
Growth has been spurred in part by the slew of new promotions offered by
the larger chains. Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s and now Taco Bell
have all recently rolled out different dollar deals—ranging from simple
dollar items to Wendy’s four for $4. Burger King had an even cheaper
promotion with five items for $4.
That’s not to say that big fast food joints are immune to the restaurant
struggle. McDonald’s, which has faced notorious revenue problems, had 91
fewer U.S. locations in 2015 than the previous year. KFC closed 100 and
Pizza Hut closed 41 restaurants.
McLynn said “the restaurant business is challenging and in the end it’s
the survival of the fittest.” In a post-recession era, the “fittest” may
be those restaurants which are perceived as offering the greatest value.