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NRA research reveals what’s in store for 2017

Despite projected moderate growth in industry sales this year, the business environment in 2017 presents a range of challenges for restaurant operators.

The National Restaurant Association’s research experts will share the latest data and analysis to help you navigate headwinds and leverage tailwinds at 12 p.m. Monday, May 22 in the can’t-miss education session “Key Trends Shaping the Future of Foodservice.” Senior Vice President of Research and Knowledge Hudson Riehle and Director of Research Communications Annika Stensson share a preview of their insight.
 
Q: The U.S. economy keeps improving. How is this affecting the restaurant industry?
HR: Economic conditions have been improving, but there are some significant geographical variances. We’re projecting modest restaurant sales growth this year. Overall, limited-service restaurants and snack and nonalcoholic-beverage bars are expected to outperform other segments. Restaurant sales in the Mountain, Pacific and South Atlantic regions are likely to grow faster than the rest of the country.

Q: Among the many challenges operators face today, labor costs and recruitment of employees top the list. Why is that?
HR: The labor pool is becoming increasingly shallow as national employment grows, creating stronger competition for qualified employees—not only within the restaurant industry but also across the economy. This competition is pushing up labor costs across the board. The restaurant industry is particularly sensitive, as it’s a very labor-intensive industry with slim profit margins.

Q: What are the top technology trends in the restaurant industry right now?
AS: Technology is a fast-moving trend, but we’re still primarily talking about expanding relatively basic technology elements, such as online ordering, touchscreen ordering and mobile payment—essentially, technology that increases convenience and speed of service for consumers. There’s still some hesitation among both consumers and restaurant operators when it comes to the more cutting-edge technology, such as chatbots and robotics. At the end of the day, consumers still very much appreciate the human element of service.  

Q: What about the top food trends?
AS: Seven in 10 consumers say the availability of healthy menu options would make them choose one restaurant over another, and three in five say the same for locally sourced food. The menu trends we’re seeing are broad-based, reflecting growing consumer interest in nutrition, local sourcing, environmentally friendly food and international flavors.

To learn more about the National Restaurant Association’s research, visit Booth #6600 at the entrance to the North Hall, or go to Restaurant.org/Research.

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®

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