Think of the last time you went out to eat, and be honest: Did you chow down at a favorite locally owned haunt, or opt for the familiarity of a chain restaurant?
A new report from market researchers NPD Group finds that overall, Americans are eating out less than few years ago, as the weak economy has caused people to cut back on such splurges. Total restaurant visits have fallen every year since 2008, from 62.7 billion restaurant visits that year to 60.6 billion in 2011.
The cutbacks have hit mom-and-pop restaurants much harder than chains. The NPD Group data shows that independent restaurants now account for 27 percent of restaurant visits, down from 28 percent in 2008.
When business falls, closures are inevitable. Although the number of independent restaurants increased slightly between 2008 and 2009, many independent restaurateurs have since had to throw in the towel.
In the past two years, NPD reports that the number of independent restaurants in the U.S. has fallen by 8,652. In that same two-year period, the number of chain restaurants has increased by 1,750.