An improvement in household finances and a decline in gas prices will help consumers spend $35.8 billion more in restaurants this year than they did in 2015, a nominal sales increase of 5.2 percent, according to a projection just released by the National Restaurant Association.
That gain, a continuation of 2015’s growth rate, translates into a “real” or inflation-adjusted sales rise of 2.4 percent. Because a real-sales figure does not reflect menu price increases, it is often viewed as a gauge of traffic changes.
The NRA also noted that restaurants’ bottom lines will likely be helped this year by moderation in the costs of several foods, including beef, pork, chicken, eggs and butter. The declines would follow last year’s decline in wholesale food prices of 2 percent, the first annual decline in six years.
The sales increase projected by the NRA would push total industry intake above the $700-billion mark for the first time, to $720.43 billion, or roughly $2 billion per day.
The increase in dollars will not be distributed evenly across industry segments, the association warns. Nominal sales-growth rates will range from 6.8 percent for snack and beverage bars, a category that includes Starbucks, to 2.8 percent for cafeterias and buffets.
Limited-service restaurants will outpace full-service establishments, 5.9 percent to 4.9 percent. Fast-casual concepts are included in the limited-service category.