rom Sharon Bernstein at the LA Times: U.S. restaurants starved for business
"It's been a miserable 21/2 years," said Chuck Keagle, who has closed six of the 10 restaurants in his family's Rancho Cucamonga-based Cask 'n Cleaver steakhouse chain since the downturn began.
Overall, customers spent about 7% less in 2009 than the previous year, and business is still slow, said Darren Tristano, analyst with the food industry research firm Technomic Inc. The company expects consumers to spend just 0.5 percentage point more on restaurant food this year than last year.
"We're in survival mode — have been for a while," said [Matt DeMasi, who co-owns Zach's Cafe in Studio City] ...
"This is the weakest that the restaurant business has been," said [Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group's restaurant industry analyst]. Year over year, the number of patrons coming to restaurants has declined for each of the last seven quarters — the most prolonged drop in the 22 years that the company has been keeping track, she said.
Nationwide, the number of restaurants dropped in 2010 for the first time in more than a decade, according to NPD, falling 5,202 to 579,416.
Restaurants are a discretionary expense and are frequently first in and last out of a recession. The second half slowdown is already hitting restaurants again according to the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index that showed contraction in June.
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