Perusing the NRA’s Sunny Forecast

January is a dreary time. There’s really no way of avoiding it, especially in Minnesota. The holidays are a distant memory and the only thing that lies between you and spring are two snowy months of the winter where you can expect 20 more inches of snow. Yeah, it’s pretty dreary.

The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Restaurant Industry Forecast is an annual reprieve from January’s dreariness. Chock full of colorful graphs and lofty predictions, the forecast is usually very positive and always visually appealing, if not very actionable. As I am wont to do in January, I found myself perusing the publication recently.

Unsurprisingly, the macro data offered up by the annual publication is optimistic. For the sixth straight year industry sales are projected to surpass the previous record breaking year. For the sixteenth consecutive year industry job growth is projected to outperform total U.S. job growth with approximately 14 million industry employees in 2015.

Obviously these figures are great for the upcoming year. But it’s also quite staggering to think that the projected record sales of $709.2 billion for 2015 are nearly 16 times more than the total industry sales in 1970. I can’t help but be in awe of that growth. It seems the only thing that changes year to year is that steady sales growth.

That’s really the point I always come back to when sifting through the data. So often the “What’s Hot” lists or “Top Menu Trends” are largely unchanging and the sales and employment figures maintain the same monotonous steady growth.

I blame January. It even makes the overwhelmingly positive industry forecast seem dreary.

But it’s not and as I’ve stated in the past the consumer data in the industry forecast is what truly piques my interest. Two trends that stood out immediately to me are:

  • 64% of consumers claim to be more adventurous than they were two years ago
  • 69% of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally produced food items

I think I’d classify myself within both of those segments, although I believe I’ve always been fairly adventurous. But the nearly 70% of consumers who are looking for locally sourced options is noteworthy, and it backs up all the anecdotal evidence I see and hear around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Finally, one finding continues to amaze me.

  • 95% of consumers say good table service is a key attribute for choosing a tableservice restaurant.

Service is your business. Service can make average food a wonderful experience or wonderful food a terrible experience. And you customers know it implicitly. This has remained a constant in this business.

So my post-NRA Forecast assertion is twofold.

This year may you attract and retain customers with an adventurous, locally sourced menu and authentic exceptional service.

And may adventurous, locally sourced food choices help me make it through the dreary winter months.


Topics: Company News