In the 2013 Industry Forecast released today by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the year ahead looks promising for full-service restaurants. Of the $660 billion forecast for 2013 restaurant sales, more than $277 billion is attributed to the full-service sector, which also includes sales in bars and taverns, accommodation restaurants, cafeterias, and social caterers. That full-service sector total represents a 3 percent growth rate over 2012 sales of $269 billion.
“Sales throughout the restaurant industry will account for 4 percent of the GDP in 2013,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research & Knowledge, for the NRA. “Overall, the industry will employ 13.1 million individuals in 2013, operate 980,000 locations, and purchase $237 billion in food products.”
Although wholesale food costs have continued to climb according to the NRA’s research—with year-over-year increases of 4.9 percent in 2010, 8.1 percent in 2011, and 2.2 percent in 2012—both sales and profitability were holding steady or even on the uptick at full-service restaurants. For 2012, 51 percent of full-service restaurants reported sales were better than in 2011; 41 percent said sales were the same; and 8 percent said sales were down. Profit margins, however, were squeezed by the rising costs of food and operations: Only 28 percent of full-service restaurants reported 2012 profits increased over 2011; 43 percent said they were the same; and 30 percent said profits dropped.
Projecting sales and profits for 2013, 57 percent of full-service restaurants expect sales will improve over the current year and 41 percent predict profits will increase. Only 5 percent anticipate lower sales in 2013 and 18 percent fear a decline in profits next year.
One trend that is fueling the optimistic outlook is continued growth in travel and tourism, particularly in visits from international tourists, expected to rise from 65 million visitors this year to more than 68 million next year. This is particularly relevant to fine-dining restaurants where 31 percent of sales are attributed to travel and tourism.
Among full-service restaurants, the fine-dining segment is performing particularly strong with 92 percent of fine-dining restaurants reporting that 2012 sales were better than or as good as the year before (and more than 50 percent actually said sales were ahead). However, profits were not so strong—28 percent said 2012 profits were up; 43 percent said they were the same; and 30 percent reported a decline in profits.
The NRA Industry Forecast also identified hot trends, most notably a continued focus on local sourcing of meat, seafood and produce; health-conscious menus especially for children; and sustainability practices. On the beverage side, growth trends to note include barrel-aged drinks; beverage and food pairings; culinary cocktails; micro-distilled and artisan liquors; and locally produced spirits.
Looking ahead, the NRA reported the top 10 states based on projected restaurant sales in 2013 are expected to be California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina and New Jersey.