WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Restaurant Association (NRA) predicts that the restaurant and foodservice industry will post a record $440.1 billion in sales next year, according to its 2004 Restaurant Industry Forecast.
"With sales expected to reach over $440 billion in the coming year—equal to 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)—2004 will be the 13th consecutive year of real growth for the restaurant industry," NRA President and CEO Steven C. Anderson said in a news release.
The NRA's Forecast defines the restaurant and foodservice industry as the maker of all meals and snacks freshly prepared away from home, including takeout meals and beverages.
Hudson Riehle, NRA's senior vice president of research and information services predicts the improving economy, combined with gains in real disposable personal income, will drive sales 4.4 percent higher than in 2003. On a typical day, he said, that means the industry will post more than $1.2 billion in sales.
The number of restaurant jobs will also increase along with moderate unit growth increases, keeping the industry's place as the nation's largest private-sector employer.
In terms of restaurant segment growth, the NRA believes sales at full-service restaurants will grow 4.6 percent to $157.9 billion in 2004 (a $6.9 billion increase over 2003). A majority of full-service restaurant operators said they anticipate business in 2004 to be better than it was in 2003; however, they did say the economy will remain their top operational challenge in 2004.
Sales at limited-service or quick-service restaurants (defined as chain and independent establishments without service staffs) are expected to increase by 3.9 percent with sales totaling $123.9 billion in 2003 (up $4.7 billion from 2003). Operators of restaurants in this segment said their top operational challenge would be recruiting and retaining employees and building/maintaining sales volume.
Economic growth is expected all across the U.S., the release said, but the top two spots will be the South and the West. Both have the fastest-growing local economies and are expected to post growth in disposable income and population this coming year.
The Mountain region will again lead the nation with a projected restaurant sales growth of 6.1 percent, while the East North Central region is projected to register sales growth of 3.8 percent, the slowest of the NRA's nine monitored regions.
At the state level, Nevada is expected to lead the nation with 6.8 percent sales growth, with neighboring Arizona following closely behind with 6.5 percent growth. Utah is expected to post 6.2 percent gains, while The District of Columbia should grow 3.4 percent and Hawaii's sales should increase 3.5 percent.