American Restaurant Industry Growth in 2013 expected to be 3.8%

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American Restaurant Industry Growth in 2013 expected to be 3.8%; trends include kids’ menus, local sourcing and more tech.

American restaurant industry growth in 2013 is expected to be 3.8 percent over 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association Sales in the U.S.  foodservice industry are expected to reach $660.5 billion in 2013, the fourth consecutive year of growth.  In addition, the nation’s 980,000 eateries are expected to add jobs at a rate of 2.4 percent in the next year, nearly a full point over the country’s overall employment projection of 1.5 percent.

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the NRA, recently presented the organization’s cautiously optimistic 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast.  Despite the increases in sales and employment, foodservice operators would continue to face challenges, according to the report, including increased food costs, the lagging economy and the unknown costs associated with implementing health care reform.

Food Costs

Wholesale food costs for the American restaurant industry will continue to rise, as they have for the last three years.  Because about one-third of a restaurant’s sales go toward food and beverage purchases, restaurant owners will have to use creativity and innovation to avoid raising menu prices.

Consumer Demand

But as the overall economy and employment improve, consumers are expected to spend more money at restaurants.  Two out of five consumers have a “pent up demand” and would like to use restaurants more often.

Technology Trends Spur American Restaurant Industry Growth

Consumers are showing a greater interest in seeing more technology implemented when dining out, so restaurateurs are expected to embrace technology more in 2013.  Tableside electronic payment systems, menus on electronic tablets such as iPads, and using smartphone apps for ordering and making reservations are some of the technology options consumers say they would like to see more of.

2013 Menu Trends

Working with the American Culinary Federation, the NRA surveyed more than 1,800 chefs to determine the top culinary trends for the coming year.  Perhaps reflecting an awakening to the problem of obesity in the nation’s children, kids’ nutrition figured into three of the top 10 menu trends.  Local sourcing and sustainability will continue to be buzzwords, and gluten-free menu items will increase.

The top 10 menu trends are expected to be:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Healthful kids’ meals
  4. Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme
  5. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
  6. New cuts of meat (Denver steak, pork flat iron)
  7. Hyper-local sourcing (onsite gardens)
  8. Gluten-free cuisine
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals

2013 Beverage Trends

According to 200 members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, beverage trends for 2013 include onsite barrel-aged drinks; cocktail and food pairings; cocktails made with fresh, savory ingredients, also known as culinary cocktails; and beer-based cocktails.  Consumers are expected to see more beer “sommeliers,” or cicerones, and bartenders will be using more locally produced beers and spirits as well as locally sourced fruits and produce for drinks.

The report concluded with encouraging news for American restaurant industry growth in 2013 that despite continued economic challenges consumers are not making “a stampede for the home kitchen.”

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