U.S. restaurant unit counts slide by 9,450 and independent restaurant units decline by 3%, says a recent restaurant census conducted by market research firm, The NPD Group.

U.S. restaurant unit counts dropped by -2%, or a loss of 9,450 restaurants, based on the most recent restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD’s "Spring 2011 ReCount," which is a census of commercial restaurant locations in the United States that’s compiled in the spring and fall each year, finds most of the total unit declines were independent restaurants, 8,650 of which closed in the census period. Chain restaurant unit counts remained relatively stable.

The Spring 2011 Recount, which was collected from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, found that the number of quick-service restaurants declined by -1% or 3,495 units. Full-service restaurant units, including casual dining, mid-scale and fine dining restaurants, decreased by 5,965 units, a -2% decline from the spring 2010 recount.

“The decline in independent units is the steepest we’ve seen since NPD began conducting the Spring 2011 Recount census in 2001,” explains Greg Starzynski, director of product development, foodservice. “A volatile economy, more frugal consumers and a lack of financial backing have made it a difficult business environment for independent restaurants.”