The tableservice restaurant segment will continue to expand at a moderate pace in 2016.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, operators should expect growth in the tableservice segment this year. For the second year in a row, food and beverage sales are projected to exceed 2.0% real growth, and operators have real reasons to be optimistic. A 4.9% gain over 2015, tableservice segment food and beverages sales are projected to total $259.2 billion in 2016. Additionally, 69% of family-dining operators expect their business to improve; just 4% presume their sales will decline. The mostly positive attitude is due in large part to an improving economy. In 2013, for example, just about every tableservice operator described the economy as a challenge. Just two years later the economy has improved and is less challenging to operators.
About 75% of tableservice operators answered that they see the overall US restaurant industry conditions as excellent or good when asked in December of 2015. The most optimistic operators within this segment operated family-dining restaurants, with 80% indicating that their own businesses were good or excellent. This more positive outlook is likely due to it appearing less difficult for tableservice operators to fill the seats in their restaurants. In addition, it’s easier for them to get customers to return. Because repeat customers represent a median of 60% of sales at tableservice restaurants, operators need to be successful in bringing their guests back to their establishments. Fueling the tableservice segment is the growth in the number of higher-income households, key customers for tableservice restaurants.
In an effort better understand tableservice customers, the NRA studied food and menu features:
- The number one priority is the opportunity to order their favorite food.
- The presence of healthy menu items came in at second place.
- The third priority is innovative and creative food items they can’t make at their own homes.
Posing a bit of a conundrum are Millennials. Whereas 82% of adults say they frequently choose a tableservice restaurant they’ve been to in the past, 65% of Millennials choose a tableservice restaurant they haven’t been to prior.
Other challenges are dampened margins, challenging food costs, maintaining sales volume, and employee retention.
Overall, however, the outlook is positive and this segment should experience growth in 2016. There are challenges to overcome but there always will be.