WASHINGTON — Total restaurant industry sales are expected to increase 4% and exceed $660 billion in 2013, with local sourcing and children’s nutrition topping consumer trends at restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast.
On a typical day next year, restaurant industry sales will average $1.8 billion, according to Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of research and knowledge for the N.R.A. The limited-service segment will reach $225.4 billion in 2013, up 5% from the previous year. Full-service restaurant sales will increase 3% to $208.1 billion.
“Despite a continued challenging operating environment, the restaurant industry remains a strong driver in the nation’s economy,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive officer of the N.R.A. “Ours is a resilient and flexible industry that continually finds new ways to keep growing, relying on the creativity and innovation exhibited by the entrepreneurial spirit. In 2013, restaurant operators will continue to explore ways of navigating the rocky landscape to find the road to success.”
Restaurant operators are starting to use technology to appeal to consumers, but they are not completely meeting consumer demand in this area yet in terms of tableside electronic payment and ordering as well as smartphone apps for viewing menus, ordering and making reservations.
More than 7 out of 10 consumers said they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally produced menu items, and more than 6 out of 10 said locally sourced menus are a key attribute for choosing a restaurant. A majority of table service restaurants offer locally sourced produce, meat or seafood with the highest availability in the fine dining segment.
Also, more than 7 in 10 consumers said they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants than they did two years ago. Women are more likely to say they are eating healthier at restaurants than men, at 75% and 66% reporting such respectively. Additionally, three-fourths of consumers said healthy menu options are an important factor when choosing a restaurant, with 80% of women and 71% of men reporting this. Restaurants are working to meet this demand for healthful options with 86% of consumers saying restaurants are offering more variety then they did two years ago.
Other important trends to consumers include healthy children’s meals, environmental sustainability as a culinary theme and children’s nutrition as a culinary theme. Gluten-free items are increasing in importance to consumers as well. Food trucks are increasing in popularity with 43% of adults saying they have purchased items from a food truck, and 73% of adults saying they would like to visit a food truck if it was offered by their favorite restaurant.
There is also pent-up demand for restaurant service with two out of five consumers saying they are not using restaurants as often as they would like, but with improving economic conditions this demand is likely to turn into sales. A typical adult patronizes a restaurant 5.2 times per week, and 47% of all consumer food dollars go to the restaurant industry.