Monday, January 19, 2009

Fine dining shrinks again

The ranks of fine-dining restaurants thinned by 8% last year, , with the decline particularly pronounced (11%) for independents competing in that sector, according to research released today by The NPD Group. The findings underscore consumers' mounting preference for more casual dining experiences.

The numbers also indicate that the big got bigger last year. Chains with at least 500 restaurants increased in number by 1%, while chains with 50 to 99 stores decreased in count by 2%, and chains with fewer than 49 outlets collectively retracted by 1%, NPD said.

Overall, the research company's Recount census service found that the nation's inventory of restaurants remained about the same, with openings almost matching the number of closings. Given the imbalance between plummeting restaurant demand and plentiful supply, that's good but not great news. The survivors might've benefited from a significant retrenchment of the business.

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