CHICAGO — Most of the restaurant industry will need to wait until the second half of 2010 to experience recovery, according to The NPD Group.

"Historically, the restaurant industry neither leads the economy into or out of periods of economic downturns," said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst with NPD. "This recession is generally believed to be more severe than those in recent history, and this time the industry not only realized traffic losses, consumer spending declined as well. This is the first time since NPD began tracking that the industry realized a fall off in dollars spent at restaurants."

Overall, the industry has experienced five consecutive quarters of traffic declines through September 2009. High unemployment, low consumer confidence, tightened credit and lower grocery store prices have taken their toll on consumers and their ability to increase spending.

For the quarter ending September 2009, traffic declined across all restaurant segments and total industry traffic declined by 4% during the quarter compared to the same time a year ago. The non-commercial food service sector also has experienced declines.