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National Restaurant Association - Riehle: Economy remains a concern for operators

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Riehle: Economy remains a concern for operators

The future of foodservice will be shaped by current economic, workforce, consumer, technology and food trends. The National Restaurant Association’s Hudson Riehle detailed these challenges and opportunities at the 2016 New England Food Show last week to help restaurant operators make strategic decisions.

Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research, highlighted trends spotted in the 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, and broke down key economic indicators in the context of the restaurant industry operating environment.

“The restaurant industry will continue to advance this year, albeit at a moderate pace in historical terms,” Riehle said in a March 14 education session. “We project that restaurant industry sales will reach $783 billion in 2016, and that the industry will employ 14.4 million individuals in more than one million locations nationwide.”

“The nation’s economy remains a top concern for restaurant operators, as post-recession recovery so far has occurred in incremental improvements and key indicators have been a mixed bag. While personal disposable income has posted moderate gains, real household income levels are below what they were prior to the recession. Consumer confidence dipped to a 7-month low despite gasoline prices trending down. However, operators can expect some relief when it comes to food costs this year, which is good news after five consecutive years of wholesale increases,” he said.

Sales growth in the limited-service restaurant segment will continue to outpace sales growth in the tableservice segment this year, while snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars (coffee shops, juice bars, ice cream and frozen yogurt stores, etc.) will continue to lead sales growth among the commercial segments, according to Riehle.

In addition, restaurant industry job growth continues, as overall employment levels also trend up. This is causing some labor markets to tighten, resulting in greater competition with other industries for employees. Recruitment and retention is therefore making its way up the list of top challenges for restaurant operators this year, Riehle said.

The 2016 New England Food Show was held March 13-15, 2016 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). The event is a once-a-year opportunity for the region to come together and identify new and innovative ways to grow the New England foodservice businesses.

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