|The national restaurant count has slipped for first time in eight years, according to a news release from The NPD Group, a market research firm. Typically, the number of U.S. restaurants grows each year, with increases of 1.8 percent in 2007 and 0.4 percent in 2006, for example. The number of total restaurant locations in 2008 contracted from 2007 by 0.1 percent, driven by closures of independent restaurants, including such prominent names as Emeril’s in Atlanta and San Domenico in New York, and units within large chains such as Starbucks and Bennigan’s. While family-dining and fine-dining segments showed drops, casual-dining and quick-service locations showed small but positive growth in 2008, NPD data shows. The industry is battling a slowdown in consumer spending, especially for dining out, as well as escalating operating costs.|
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