Is U.S. restaurant industry in recovery phase?

The U.S. restaurant industry may be poised for a turn toward recovery but the industry will remain weak for at least another seven months, Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group said today. The research firm said data on 47 fast-food and family-style chains show increases in same-store sales in four of the past six weeks, a positive trend not seen in 11 months. Same-store sales refer to sales at restaurants open at least a year, and are a closely-watched measure of the industry's health.

The recession may be having less effect on diners as they start feeling more positive about the economy; NPD said fewer diners are picking cheaper restaurants or sacrificing a restaurant visit so that they can do other things. But NPD cautioned that the industry isn’t in growth mode yet, as total restaurant industry traffic is still down 3 percent in the year ending in February, capping 14 consecutive months of declines.