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Restaurant Industry Outlook Brightens In 2010

Posted On: 2/6/2010

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WASHINGTON, DC -- With the economic downturn easing, the restaurant industry is expected to show gradual improvement in 2010, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2010 Restaurant Industry Forecast. Industry sales are projected to reach $580 billion this year, a 2.5% increase over the 2009 total sales. When adjusted for inflation, 2010 sales will be essentially flat, which is an improvement over the 1.2% and 2.9% decline that the industry experienced in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Continuing the trend from last year, the quick-service restaurant segment is expected to fare slightly better than the full-service segment as diners focus on value and specials. QSRs are projected to post sales of $164.8 billion in 2010, a gain of 3% over 2009. Sales at full-service restaurants are projected to reach $184.2 billion, an increase of 1.2% over last year.

The eating-and-drinking place segment expected to show the strongest growth in 2010 is social caterering, whose sales are expected to increase by 4.5%. Among all commercial industry segments, the strongest growth is expected in retail-host restaurants (including those located in gas/service stations and drug- and grocery stores), with a 4.9% sales increase.

Colorado is expected to post the strongest sales growth in 2010 at 2.9%, followed by Idaho at 2.8%. Forecasted to post growth of 2.7%: New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Texas. The top states by restaurant sales volume in 2010 will be California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois, NRA predicts.

According to the forecast, consumers will continue to seek value, convenience and expanded menu options in 2010. Restaurant operators will continue their efforts to "go green," investing in energy-efficient equipment and fixtures, using recyclable materials and reducing water use. Four of 10 full-service and 31% of quick-service operators said they plan to devote more resources to green initiatives in 2010 than they did in 2009, and 4 in 10 consumers told NRA they choose restaurants based on their conservation practices.

Locally sourced food, sustainability and health and nutrition will be the top trends on restaurant menus this year, according to NRA prognosticators. Seventy percent of consumers say they are more likely to visit restaurants that offer locally produced food, and nearly three in four say they are trying to eat more healthily in restaurants now than they did two years ago. Ethnic cuisines and flavors are also a hot menu trend this year, including regional ethnic cuisine and fusion cuisine.