CHICAGO — Increased consumer spending led to slight global growth in the food service industry during the second quarter, according to market researcher The NPD Group. The growth occurred even though restaurant and food service visits are down in most countries.

“Around the world, most of our analysts describe their economic environment and industry performance as ‘not so good, but not as bad as it was before,’” said Bob O’Brien, senior vice-president of global food service for The NPD Group. “This amounts to faint hope for a broader environment of robust health.”

The market proved to be the best in China and Canada as food service traffic increased by 13% and 2%, respectively. The increase in China was fueled by the country’s economic recovery and increased consumer confidence.

“Chinese food service consumers cautiously increased their restaurant visits and new visitors started to dine out,” said Christina Ma, China food service manager for NPD. “Visits to western quick-service restaurants increased significantly as consumers switched from full service to quick service restaurants.”

The countries with the biggest traffic declines were Italy, Japan and Spain with spending increasing in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany in addition to China and Canada. Traffic was flat in Japan, and it was the only country with a decline in the amount spent per person.

“Although traffic was still down for most food service segments except quick service, the rate of decline in the second quarter was slower than the first quarter,” Guy Fielding, director of business development for United Kingdom food service, said about the U.K. “The travel and leisure food service segment and full service restaurants saw the rate of visits declines halved.”