According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast, restaurant sales are expected to grow by 3.6 percent this year and exceed $683 billion. This growth rate is modest compared to the pre-recession era, however, as consumers remain cautious with their spending.
“Restaurant operators are facing a range of challenges and opportunities to growing sales, including how to nudge consumers into action,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research for the Association.
“The good news is that Americans love to dine out and try to do so as much as they are able. While the financial situation of many consumers is not yet strong enough to fully support that desire for restaurant-prepared meals, the right value incentives and loyalty programs can attract diners,” Riehle said.
According to the 2014 Forecast, more than four in 10 consumers report they are not using restaurants as often as they would like. This is a high level of pent-up demand by historical terms, indicating that something is indeed holding consumers back – cash on hand.
NRA research confirms this, as six in 10 (61 percent) consumers surveyed last month said they would visit restaurants more often if their cash on hand situation were better. In the same survey, consumers were also asked if they try to save money when they dine out so that they can dine out more often; more than half (55 percent) agreed. Following that thread, four in 10 also said they expect to dine out more often in 2014 than they did last year, underscoring continued focus on value and loyalty development as key drivers of restaurant patronage.