Spotty growth forecast for restaurants in 2019

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Sales at casual, fine-dining and fast-casual restaurants will grow at a slightly faster clip next year than they did in 2018, but traditional quick-service restaurants and midscale full-service places won’t share in the acceleration, according to a forecast from Technomic.

In one of the first looks at what restaurants can expect in 2019, the researcher noted that limited-service places will continue to outpace full-service establishments in nominal sales, with growth forecasts of 4.9% and 3.4%, respectively. But those figures point to a slight uptick for table-service places, whose collective sales were projected to increase by 3.3%.

Quick-service and fast-casual places should see a slight slowdown, from 5.1% growth in 2018 to 4.9% next year, according to the data Technomic shared this week at FSTEC, a conference for restaurant-technology users and suppliers. The drag comes from quick-service places, whose sales are expected to decelerate slightly to a 4.2% rate of gain, from this year’s 4.4% pace.

The fast-casual segment is expected to pick up again after slowing down a hair in recent years, with sales forecast to grow 8.3% in 2019 versus 8% this year, Technomic said.

The forecasts varied for various subsegments of the full-service market as well. Casual dining should see a 3.4% gain in sales next year, an uptick from this year’s 3.2% pace, according to the Technomic data. Fine-dining restaurants will split a 5.2% rise, an acceleration from the sector-leading 5% growth forecast for 2018.

The laggard in full-service remains midscale, or family-dining, operations, with a forecast growth of just 2.8%, a slowdown from this year’s projected 2.9% rise.

The researcher did not provide a growth forecast for the industry as a whole. Nor did it project a figure for food inflation, which figures into the nominal figures that were shared at FSTEC. But Technomic Managing Principal Joe Pawlak noted that traffic remains an industry challenge. Transaction counts at full-service places slid 2.4% this year, he revealed, after falling 4.2% in 2017.

Traffic at limited-service restaurants increased, but by a scant 0.8%, a slowdown from the 1.9% increase clocked last year.

Technomic did not forecast traffic for 2019.

Technomic, FSTEC and Restaurant Business are all holdings of Winsight.



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