Restaurant Industry Forecast: Record Sales and High-Technology in 2012
Mar 2, 2012
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The restaurant industry in the United States is projected to expand in 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast, with total restaurant industry sales expected to reach a record high of $632 billion.

$632 billion in restaurant sales in 2012 would be a 3.5% increase over 2011, marking the second consecutive year of industry sales over $600 billion.

The Restaurant Association said more technology is finding a place at restaurant tables, driven largely by consumer interest. The forecast report said:
* Almost 4 in 10 consumers say they'd be likely to use tablet-based electronic ordering at tableservice restaurants.
* About half said they would use at-table electronic payment options and restaurant smartphone apps at tableservice restaurants.
* About 4 out of 10 consumers say they would place online orders for takeout at quickservice restaurants, would use in-store self-service ordering kiosks, and would use smartphone apps to look at menus and order delivery.

Restaurant operators are finding email and text messages are effective ways to reach consumers:
* About 3 in 10 of adults said they would like to get an email with daily specials.
* 1 in 5 prefer text messages.

If a restaurant's specials were available on Facebook or Twitter, one-third of consumers would be likely to sign up.

Nine out of 10 restaurants will use Facebook in the next year or two, and there will be increasing use of Twitter and smartphone apps as well.

What do consumers want in 2012? The association said these are the top attributes consumers look for when choosing a tableservice restaurant:
* food quality
* customer service quality
* value.

At quickservice restaurants, customers are looking for:
* food quality
* value
* speed of service

The top menu trends in terms of food are about local sourcing and nutrition - particularly kids' nutrition. Three-quarters of consumers are trying to eat healthier at restaurants than they did two years ago, and restaurants report customers are ordering healthier items.

Overall restaurant employment is expected to reach 12.9 million in 2012, representing 10% of the total U.S. workforce and maintaining the restaurant industry's status as the second largest private sector employer.

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