US Restaurant Industry Grows for the 6th Consecutive Year


  According to the National Restaurant Association's 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, the U.S.'s one million restaurants will continue to be be a leading job creator. While operating costs remain a challenge, total sales for the restaurant industry are projected to hit $709.2 billion in 2015 - a 3.8% increase over 2014 making it a new record high and marking the sixth straight year of sales growth. 2015 will also mark the 16th successive year where overall employment growth will be exceeded by restaurant industry employment.

14 million individuals will be employed by restaurants this year, representing about 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce making it the country's second-largest private sector employer.

"Our nation's restaurants continue to be an essential part of Americans' daily lives and play a vital role in every community across the country. Although operators will continue to face a range of complex challenges in 2015, the restaurant and foodservice industry remains a fundamental driver of the nation's economy, while providing valuable careers and opportunities to 14 million Americans." - Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

This sentiment was echoed by Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research for the National Restaurant Association:

"With the economy slowly improving and national employment trending upward, signs are pointing in the right direction for restaurant industry growth. Certain components of the business climate remain a challenge, accelerating industry sales in some regions and putting a damper on them in others, but the overall industry is definitely in a better place now than several years ago."

Restaurant Workforce Outlook

  • Restaurants are expected to add jobs at a full percentage point above the projected 2.2% gain in total U.S. employment in 2015.
  • Restaurants outpaced total US employment, which grew at 1.9%, by adding jobs at 3.1% in 2014.
  • Restaurant industry employment will increase to 1.7 million positions and reach 15.7 million by 2025.
  • Every state is expected to see their restaurant industry workforce expand during the next decade. The top five states are: Arizona (23.8%), Florida (22.4%), Texas (22.0%), Georgia (21.1 %) and Utah (21.0%).

Challenges & Opportunities

  • Restaurant operators will continue to face a range of challenges including: rising food costs, building sales volume, the nation's economy, as well as human resource issues such as recruiting and retaining employees.
  • During the last five years, average wholesale food prices rose roughly 25 percent, rising more than 5 percent in 2014.
  • With an improving economy and the unemployment rate trending downward, restaurant operators are dealing with an intensifying competition for employees.
  • Labor costs remain a primary concern for operators. Minimum wage increases and challenges associated with Affordable Care Act have had a serious effect on bottom lines.
  • High demand: 38% of consumers say they are not eating in restaurants as frequently as they would like while 41% say they are not purchasing takeout or delivery as often as they would like.

Consumer Trends

  • Approximately 25% of consumers say technology options are important features which factor into their decision on where to dine, an increase of almost 20% from 2014.
  • While restaurants are starting to adopt consumer-facing technology at a quicker rate, a gap still remains between what restaurants offer and what consumers, however, that gap is beginning to close as technology evolves and more options are becoming available.
  • The restaurant business is still people powered. Despite increased consumer use of technology options, high quality service will continue to be the hallmark of dining out. Consumers still want people as part of their dinning experience, they look to technology to increase service speed and convenience. There is no technological equivalent to charm and tending to a customer's needs attentively.
  • It's good to be healthy. 80% of consumers say restaurants now offer more healthy menu options compared to two years ago. 76% say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers healthy food options. 67% of consumers say they order more healthy food options in restaurants than they did two years ago.
  • Patrons are showing heightened enthusiasm towards locally sourced goods and restaurants have taken notice. More than 80% of operators are saying their customers are more interested in locally sourced items this year, up 10% from last year.

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