You could say the business forecast for the restaurant industry is as rosy as a vodka blush sauce. Research conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the leading business association for the restaurant industry, indicates that consumers will continue to allocate more of their food dollars to meals outside of the home. Currently this figure hovers around 40 percent, but Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, research at the National Restaurant Association, estimates it will hit an unprecedented high of 50 percent within the next few years.
And the economic impact of this consumption trend on the spending power of the restaurant industry will be significant, Riehle points out. “For every consumer dollar spent in restaurants,” he explains, “another $2 is spent by restaurants” to service customers and grow their businesses. The restaurant industry, on average, spends $183 billion annually on food and beverage purchases alone, he adds.
So just how many sites are we talking about? The National Restaurant Association reports as many as 925,000 restaurant/food service operations in the United States, which employ 12.5 million people. “The restaurant industry is the second largest employer in the United States, after the government,” says Edward J. Mueller, publisher of Chicago trade publication Chef magazine. And it’s a business sector, he informs, that is aggressively promoting women and minorities into management positions.
Who’s the Boss?
Beyond the fact that more women and minorities are assuming decision-making roles in the restaurant industry, marketers interested in selling to this sector need to consider other factors that affect who is likely to be running the business.
For example, the National Restaurant Association tracks more than 39 different industry segments—from sole proprietorships to multi-unit chains to individual franchisees, and from fine dining establishments to ice cream parlors to pizza stands. Each business model and corporate structure is different, and so are the primary contacts and business needs.