The restaurant segment is seeing small wins after being on a steady decline the past decade.
According to NPD, a Chicago-based market research firm, casual dining sales rose 3 percent over the 12 months ending in February, forecasting a rebound in casual dining. While this might not seem like a big deal, traffic at casual dining establishments has been in great decline for years.
Visits to small and large casual dining chains have grown while visits to independent casual dining restaurants declined. Because of lower gas prices and increased employment, dining out has become more popular. Chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s have since added equipment to improve efficiency and have also expanded their menus to appeal to a wider demographic.
Similar brands are also pulling out all the marketing stops and trying to shift away from the “discount” feel that has dominated the casual dining sales strategy.
“It’s been a rough road for casual dining operators,” Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst, said in a statement. “Major and small chains, which have the capital to hang in there and the marketing power to promote, are beginning to see the fruits of their labor.”
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