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Business slows among the 'fast-food' set

A Chinese man sits outside a massive McDonald's fast food restaurant in downtown Beijing, China on February 23, 2008. American fast food giant McDonald's was chosen as one of the few foreign food outlets to operate within the 2008 Beijing Olympic green, and its surrounding sporting venues. (UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver)
A Chinese man sits outside a massive McDonald's fast food restaurant in downtown Beijing, China on February 23, 2008. American fast food giant McDonald's was chosen as one of the few foreign food outlets to operate within the 2008 Beijing Olympic green, and its surrounding sporting venues. (UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver) | License Photo

CHICAGO, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A drop in U.S. restaurant customers has trickled down to fast-food outlets, where discounts have helped mitigate a dip in traffic, a private researcher said.

Expensive restaurants experienced a slump quickly when the recession hit, The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday. Now, slower traffic has hit the fast-food chains, especially during breakfast and lunch, a slowdown attributed to rising unemployment.

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At Burger King outlets open more than a year, sales have dropped 4.5 percent in the past two fiscal quarters, said market research firm NPD Group. At Yum Brands, owners of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, traffic fell 6 percent in the third quarter.

At McDonald's, which is introducing a $1 breakfast menu on a national scale, sales fell in October and November, NPD Group said.

Industry analyst Mac Brand at Bellwether Food Group, said customers are now "managing their check" by selective ordering, which means skipping the fries or the beverage, instead of ordering a full meal -- a trend that may last for a while.

"Consumers have realized they don't need to spend as much to enjoy themselves, and they don't need to go out as much," he said.

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