Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record $511 billion in 2006, according to the National Restaurant Assn.'s (NRA) 2006 Restaurant Industry Forecast. The projected annual sales would mean a 5.1 percent increase over last year, and a total economic impact of over $1.3 trillion. Its the first time the industrys sales will cross the half-trillion dollar mark.With more than $1.4 billion a day in sales, the restaurant industrys share of the consumer food dollar is nearly 48 percent, said Steven C. Anderson, NRA's president and chief executive officer. In the year ahead, the restaurant industry is poised to set a record over one half-trillion dollars in direct sales. It will also mark the industry's fifteenth year of consecutive real economic growth. As one of the nation's most aggressive job creators, the industry will employ 12.5 million people in 925,000 locations.Top trendsIn addition to the economic impact, the 2006 Restaurant Industry Forecast highlights the following trends:
- Heightened focus on health and nutrition. Nearly three in four adults (72 percent) say they are trying to eat more healthfully in restaurants than they did two years ago. More than half of all operators, in both the quickservice and tableservice segments, reported greater customer demand for items such as entrée salads and bottled water now compared to two years ago. Also, majorities of operators reported that items like wraps, pitas and tortillas are more popular than two years ago.
- Restaurants as homes away from home. With growing demand from plugged-in Americans accustomed to operating in a 24/7 society for amenities such as televisions and wireless Internet access, look for restaurants to bring more of these features to the table. Twenty-seven percent of adults surveyed by the National Restaurant Association said theyd likely use wireless Internet access if their favorite tableservice restaurant offered it. The percentage rose to 52 percent for adults aged 18 to 24.
- Table-top televisions spark interest as well. One in four adults surveyed said they would watch a small television at their table if their favorite fullservice restaurant offered it.
- Increased attention to energy efficiency. Higher energy prices will force belt-tightening among some restaurant operators as well as consumers. A majority of operators anticipate higher energy expenses that will eat more of their bottom line next year. In addition, a majority report they have updated refrigeration, air conditioning and heating systems in the last two years, which will help contain cost pressures.
- Demand for convenience. Thirty-four percent of adults say purchasing takeout food is essential to the way they live. Whether they're looking for a quick drive-through or a hot meal delivered to the car to take home, consumers will escalate their desire for convenience. Consumers readily embrace convenient services operators offer: curbside service, drive-through, delivery and takeout. Watch for more fullservice restaurants in 2006 to go more aggressively after the takeout and delivery markets.