The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual Restaurant Industry Forecast projects a 3.5% increase in foodservice sales in 2012. That’s down slightly from the 2011 growth rate of 4%, but it’s welcome news to an industry that saw two years of sales declines during the recession of 2008-09.
The economic downturn caused eight out of ten consumers to reduce personal spending. About 40% of consumers surveyed by the NRA said they have cut back on dining out more than they want to, a 10% increase from last year. And while 68% of adults say they expect the economy to stay the same or get worse, 33% think their own household finances will improve this year.
That tiny spark of optimism, plus the pent-up demand created by a few years of personal restraint, has prompted cautious optimism, though consumers will still be managing restaurant visits and spending carefully.
In order to capitalize on consumers’ continued focus on value, many restaurant chains are offering deals to draw customers into their locations. But while it’s critical to remain top-of-mind when consumers decide to spend, remember that sustained discounting can devalue your brand.
Instead, try using Facebook or Foursquare to connect with your customers and offer them something special. Today, about 60% of Americans view restaurant menus online, up from 31% a few years ago. Significant numbers also say they would use smart phones and mobile apps to view menus, order meals and make reservations. Integration of technology into the restaurant experience will benefit both operators and consumers in the years to come.
Read the NRA 2012 Forecast news release here: http://www.restaurant.org/pressroom/pressrelease/?ID=2220