U.S. consumers cut back on their restaurant visits at lunch and supper in 2013, but increased their visits at breakfast for the fourth consecutive year, reports The NPD Group research organization. Consumers made more than 12.5 billion breakfast visits to U.S. foodservice outlets last year, a 3% gain over year ago.

Quick service, which accounts for about 80% of total restaurant morning meals, showed the strongest increase in breakfast visits of all restaurant segments with a 4% increase in the year ending Dec. 2013 period compared to year ago, reports NPD CREST, which tracks how consumers use restaurants and other foodservice outlets. Morning meal visits to midscale/family-dining restaurants declined by 3%.

NPD's A Look into the Future of Foodservice study forecasts that total restaurant morning meal visits will grow by 7% over the next nine years. It forecasts that total restaurant morning meal visits will grow by 7% over the next nine years. And it expects quick-service breakfast traffic to increase by 9%.

"Breakfast continues to be a bright spot for the restaurant industry as evidenced by the number of chains expanding their breakfast offerings and times," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst. "A restaurant morning meal serves a variety of needs. In addition to helping us jump start our day, it satisfies the need for convenience, is less costly than other restaurant meals, and is readily available to us."