Josh Ozersky at Time says last year was a tough one for restaurants:
It’s been a rough stretch for restaurants. While gastrocrats continue to support supper high-end tweezer-food palaces, the middle-of-the-road places have been hit hard by the recession. According to the market research company NPD Group, restaurant visits in the U.S. fell from 62.7 billion in 2008 to 60.6 billion in 2011. In an atmosphere like that, third and fourth generation businesses are particularly vulnerable.
Part of it is just age and decay. And part of it is that the restaurant business has become insanely, unsustainably competitive, especially in big cities: novelty is everything, and it’s rare that even the most critically lauded of places can sustain themselves for more than a few years
The bright side, of course, is that Americans are spending less on eating out. I recall back in 2008, bloggers were making a big deal out of how much we were spending on restaurants. Now we're just spending too much on the wrong kind of restaurants. That seems like some kind of progress.