It’s not all doom and gloom for the restaurant industry, at least not according to a report out from the National Restaurant Association. In fact, they are calling for the industry to expand in 2012.
The National Restaurant Association’s 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast says that total restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record high of $632 billion in 2012 – a 3.5 percent increase over 2011, marking the second consecutive year that industry sales have topped $600 billion.
The restaurant industry is identified by the agency as the nation’s second largest private sector employer. They say overall restaurant industry employment will reach 12.9 million in 2012, representing 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
“As our nation slowly recovers from the economic downturn, restaurants continue to be a vital part of American lifestyles and our nation’s economy,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “We expect the nation’s nearly one million restaurants to post sales of $632 billion this year. Combine that with the fact that restaurant job growth is expected to outpace the overall economy for the 13th straight year, and it’s clear that the restaurant industry is once again proving to be a significant economic stimulant and strong engine for job creation.”
Issues ahead for the industry include food costs, building sales, and integrating the use of technology. The report says there is substantial pent-up demand for restaurant services, with 2 out of 5 consumers saying they are not using restaurants as often as they would like.
According to the Forecast, nearly 4 in 10 consumers say they’d be likely to use an electronic ordering system and menus on tablet computers at tableservice restaurants. About half said they would use at-table electronic payment options and a restaurant’s smartphone app to view menus and make reservations. At quickservice restaurants, about 4 out of 10 consumers say they would place online orders for takeout, use in-store self-service ordering kiosks, and use smartphone apps to look at menus and order delivery.
What’s more is that in today’s über-connected society, email and text messaging are proving to be an effective way for restaurant operators to reach their consumers. Roughly 3 in 10 of adults said they would like to receive an email with daily specials, while about 1 in 5 prefer text messages with similar information. If a restaurant’s specials were available on Facebook or Twitter, nearly one-third of consumers say they’d be likely to sign up, indicating that social media continues to be a powerful marketing tool.
To further feed consumers’ digital hunger, more than nine out of 10 restaurant operators said their restaurant will likely be using Facebook in the next year or two, with use of Twitter and smartphone applications expected to be on the rise as well. See our commentary on that in our 2012 Trends.