Despite sluggish recovery by the nation’s economy, the restaurant industry is projected to expand in 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast released today.
Total restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record high of $632 billion in 2012 – a 3.5 percent increase over 2011. In addition, overall restaurant industry employment will reach 12.9 million in 2012, representing 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
“As our nation slowly recovers from the economic downturn, restaurants continue to be a vital part of American lifestyles and our nation’s economy,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.
“We expect the nation’s nearly one million restaurants to post sales of $632 billion this year. Combine that with the fact that restaurant job growth is expected to outpace the overall economy for the 13th straight year, and it’s clear that the restaurant industry is once again proving to be a significant economic stimulant and strong engine for job creation,” she added.
In 2012, the National Restaurant Association expects the restaurant industry to add jobs at a 2.3 percent rate, a full percentage point above the projected 1.3 percent gain in total U.S. employment. The industry is expected to gain back all of the jobs lost during the recession by early 2012, while the overall economy isn’t expected to be back at pre-recession employment levels until 2014.
While the industry is expected to grow in 2012, the top challenges cited by restaurateurs are food costs, building and maintaining sales volume, and the economy.
“Because about one-third of sales in a restaurant go to food and beverage purchases, food prices are a crucial component for operators,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s Research and Knowledge group.
“Last year, we saw wholesale food prices post their strongest annual increase in more than three decades. In 2012, we will see continued increases in the cost of some commodities, while price pressures will ease for others,” Riehle said.