Restaurant Industry Predicts Strong 2013 Growth

The National Restaurant Association’s 2013 industry forecast predicts more jobs, better sales, and a trend toward locally sourced food.

The National Restaurant Association is predicting U.S. restaurants will see record sales and employ 10 percent of the country’s workforce next year.

Despite challenges such as the increasing cost of food, healthcare reform, and the slow economic recovery—which restaurateurs listed as the top three challenges in the 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast—it’s projected that the industry will hit about $660.5 billion in sales in 2013, marking a fourth consecutive year of sales growth.

“The fact that the restaurant industry will continue to grow in an operating environment that presents substantial challenges is a testament to the essential role that restaurants play in our daily lives,” Hudson Riehle, NRA’s senior vice president, research and knowledge, said in a statement. “Restaurants are offering products and services that consumers actively seek out and enjoy; an activity in which consumers are selecting to engage despite cash-on-hand restraints because it is an important component of their lifestyle.”

The NRA’s 2013 forecast, which includes economic, workforce, consumer, and menu trends, also predicts the industry will add jobs at a rate of 2.4 percent next year, higher than the projected 1.5 percent gain in total national employment.

Another trend the association is expecting to see emerge more strongly next year is the use of technology to enhance customer service. More than half of customers at tableservice restaurants said they would use tableside electronic payment options, and nearly a third of diners would use mobile payment options.

Forty-four percent of consumers also said they would use self-order terminals at fast-food restaurants. Currently, less than 10 percent of tableservice, and less than 2 percent of quickservice, restaurants offer customer-facing technology services, but roughly half of each type of restaurant said they plan to invest more in these services next year.

Locally sourced menu options and nutrition are also expected to be big trends for 2013. More than seven out of 10 diners said they are trying to eat healthier when dining out.

They also said they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

Chefs agree: More than 1,800 professional chefs said the top five culinary trends for 2013 include locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, environmental sustainability, and children’s nutrition.

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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