The restaurant industry has taken a beating as consumers continue to struggle through a tough economy, but there are signs that that picture is slowly improving, according to reports by The NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm.

For starters, weekly same-store sales for quick serve restaurants and family-style chains have been holding steady or growing between one and two percent over the last seven weeks, said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant analyst. Customers are easing their focus on controlled spending and price as well as their efforts to find deals, according to an NPD study titled “Light at the End of the Tunnel . . . What Can We Expect.”

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“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” Riggs said. “I think consumers have gotten recession weary.”

But don’t expect a quick turnaround, Riggs said. Restaurant traffic for the last quarter ending in February is still down across all categories, she said. Restaurant operators are going to have to have to work hard to bring customer traffic back to pre-recession levels, she said. She’s figuring it will be another year or a year and half before that happens.