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National Restaurant Association - Restaurant industry will grow, outpace national job growth in 2013 despite sustained challenges

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Restaurant industry will grow, outpace national job growth in 2013 despite sustained challenges

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While the operating environment will remain challenging, America’s 980,000 restaurants are expected to post record sales and continue to be a leading job creator in 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast released today. Total restaurant industry sales are expected to exceed $660 billion in 2013 – a 3.8 percent increase over 2012, marking the fourth consecutive year of real sales growth for the industry.

In addition, 2013 will be the 14th straight year in which restaurant industry employment will outpace overall employment. Restaurants will employ 13.1 million individuals next year as the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, representing 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

“Despite a continued challenging operating environment, the restaurant industry remains a strong driver in the nation’s economy,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “Ours is a resilient and flexible industry that continually finds new ways to keep growing, relying on the creativity and innovation exhibited by the entrepreneurial spirit. In 2013, restaurant operators will continue to explore ways of navigating the rocky economic landscape to find the road to success.”

“The fact that the restaurant industry will continue to grow in an operating environment that presents substantial challenges is a testament to the essential role that restaurants play in our daily lives,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research & Knowledge for the National Restaurant Association. “Restaurants are offering products and services that consumers actively seek out and enjoy; an activity in which consumers are selecting to engage despite cash-on-hand restraints because it is an important component of their lifestyle.”

RestaurantIndustryEm#941552.jpgWorkforce Outlook
Total U.S. employment grew at a rate of 1.4 percent in 2012, while restaurants added jobs at a strong 3.0 percent rate – more than double the overall rate. In 2013, the NRA expects the restaurant industry to add jobs at a 2.4 percent rate, nearly a full percentage point above the projected 1.5 percent gain in total employment.

Looking ahead, the NRA expects restaurants to add 1.3 million new positions in the next decade, pushing industry employment to 14.4 million by 2023.

Because of this strong growth in restaurant employment, labor challenges will start to reemerge next year. Recruitment and retention, which was a top challenge pre-recession, will make its way back onto restaurant operators’ radar as the U.S. labor pool is starting to become shallower; restaurant operators in all segments expect recruitment and retention to be more challenging in 2013 than in 2012.

Challenges and Opportunities
While the restaurant industry is expected to grow in 2013, operators will continue to face a range of challenges. The top challenges cited by restaurateurs vary by industry segment, and include food costs, the economy and health care reform.

After increasing steadily in the last three years, wholesale food costs will continue on an upward trajectory through 2013, putting significant pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines as about one-third of sales in a restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases. Because of these prolonged cost pressures, restaurant operators will continue to use creativity and innovation to drive out cost inefficiencies and increase productivity to not pass along the increases to consumers at the same rate.

The sluggish economic and employment recovery impacts consumers’ cash-on-hand situation, which in turn impacts restaurants as there is a strong correlation between consumers’ disposable income and restaurant sales. There is currently substantial pent-up demand for restaurant services, with 2 out of 5 consumers saying they are not using restaurant as often as they would like; with improving economic conditions, that demand is likely to turn into sales.

Preparing for the implementation of health care reform will put additional cost pressure on some restaurant operators in the near future. One-third of a typical restaurant’s sales go toward labor costs, so significant increases in those costs will result in additional cost management measures to preserve the already slim pre-tax profit margins of 3-5 percent on which most restaurants operate.

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