By Rieva Lesonsky

We’ve mentioned them before, but apparently last year was a record-breaker for burgers. According to BurgerBusiness 9 billion burgers were served in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. This, in a year when market research firm the NPD Group says overall restaurant customer traffic did not grow.

Not faring as well at the nation’s restaurants were sandwiches, which were down 2 percent in sales (or, says NPD, about 201 million servings). Specifically, grilled chicken sandwich sales declined 9 percent (129 million servings).

Fast-food burger restaurants took a bigger hit: Overall visits decreased 3 percent, though 3 percent more hamburgers were sold. The brighter news came from casual-dining eateries, where burger sales jumped 4 percent. Bonnie Riggs, a senior restaurant industry analyst for NPD, says the lift resulted from a “combination of factors,” including more new burger items being added to restaurant menus.

Beverages are faring better than these foods, reports QSR magazine. We’re not talking cups of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Instead QSR predicts consumers will be ordering creative beverages, items like “handcrafted soda at Starbucks, an alcoholic frappe from Wahlburgers or cola mashups” from the new soda fountain machines.

So whether it’s burgers or beverages, it seems creativity rules the day. That might be one reason the NPD Group says restaurant traffic will increase this year (though by a paltry 1 percent).

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+   and Twitter.com/Rieva.