LOS ANGELES - It's not looking good for the restaurant industry, which struggled through a slow spring season and will probably see flat traffic for the next two years.
A mild winter drove more diners to eat out, leading optimistic analysts to predict that the industry was recovering after being slammed in the recession. But those hopes were dashed as the year went on and restaurant visits rose a paltry 1 percent in the spring from a year earlier, according to research firm NPD Group Inc.
NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs cited consumers' "continuing cost-consciousness, still relatively high unemployment and economic uncertainty" as reasons for the industry's disappointing performance.
Originally, NPD expected traffic to grow 1 percent each year in 2012 and 2013; now the group says traffic will be flat.
Some segments, especially fast food, continue to be strong. The so-called quick service sector accounts for 78 percent of restaurant traffic and enjoyed a 2 percent boost in the spring.