WASHINGTON D.C. — Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record $511 billion in 2006, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2006 Restaurant Industry Forecast. According to a news release, the projected annual sales would mean a 5.1 percent increase over 2005 and a total economic impact of over $1.3 trillion. It's the first time the industry's sales will cross the half-trillion dollar mark.
"With more than $1.4 billion a day in sales, the restaurant industry's share of the consumer food dollar is nearly 48 percent," said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the NRA. "In the year ahead, the restaurant industry is poised to set a record -- over one half-trillion dollars in direct sales. It will also mark the industry's 15th year of consecutive real economic growth. As one of the nation's most aggressive job creators, the industry will employ 12.5 million people in 925,000 locations."
In addition to the economic impact, the 2006 Restaurant Industry Forecast highlights the following trends:
* Heightened focus on health and nutrition. Nearly three in four adults (72 percent) say they are trying to eat more healthfully in restaurants than they did two years ago. More than half of all operators, in both the quick-service and table-service segments, reported greater customer demand for items such as entrée salads and bottled water now compared to two years ago. Also, majorities of operators reported that items like wraps, pitas and tortillas are more popular than two years ago.
* Restaurants as homes away from home. Look for restaurants to bring more amenities such as televisions and wireless Internet access to the table. Twenty-seven percent of adults surveyed by the NRA said they'd likely use wireless Internet access if their favorite table-service restaurant offered it. The percentage rose to 52 percent for adults 18 to 24.
Table-top televisions spark interest as well. One in four adults surveyed said they would watch a small television at their table if their favorite full-service restaurant offered it.
* Demand for convenience. Thirty-four percent of adults say purchasing takeout food is essential to the way they live. Whether they're looking for a quick drive-through or a hot meal delivered to the car to take home, consumers will escalate their desire for convenience. Consumers readily embrace convenient services operators offer: curbside service, drive-through, delivery and takeout. Watch for more full-service restaurants in 2006 to go more aggressively after the takeout and delivery markets.
Among the major segments, sales at full-service restaurants are projected to reach $173.4 billion in 2006, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2005. Full-service operators are optimistic about the economy, as a solid 69 percent of fine-dining operators, 59 percent of casual-dining operators and 48 percent of family-dining operators indicate that they expect their sales in 2006 to be higher than in 2005.
Quick-service restaurants are projected to register sales of $142.4 billion in 2006, a gain of 5 percent over 2005. Consumer demand for convenience and value will continue to drive growth, while operators continue to face stiff competition from grocery and convenience stores.
Economic growth is expected in all nine U.S. regions, with all regions also projecting job growth in 2006. The five top regions in terms of sales growth remain in the West and the South. These regions continue to have the fastest growth in local economies, disposable income and population. The restaurant industry in Nevada will have the highest sales growth of any state, followed by Arizona, Florida, Colorado and Texas.
"As the industry grows, so will the number of career and employment opportunities in the foodservice industry — by 2016 there will be an additional 1.9 million jobs available in U.S. restaurants," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA Research and Information Services Division.
"Even with the challenges of rising energy costs and major hurricanes in 2005, the nation's restaurants are entering 2006 with a solid performance and optimism about the future."