2016 National Restaurant Association Forecast: Top Trends

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Each year the National Restaurant Association prepares an all-inclusive synopsis of the restaurant industry. The report is the culmination of the NRA’s analysis of the most recent economic data and extensive surveys of both restaurant owners and consumers. One major component of the forecast is top trends. The following are the 2016 top trends as determined by the National Restaurant Association.

Challenged Profit Margins

Be prepared to face challenges in 2016. Not only will restaurant operators be facing regulatory and legislative pressures, labor costs will increase. Additionally, cybersecurity is going to present itself as an issue that cannot be ignored. Expect your operating procedures to be challenged, and plan on having to revisit and revise them this year.

Shallow Labor Pool

The younger labor pool is dwindling and the workforce is finding itself with a growing number of older workers. Our industry, due to the tighter national labor market, is going to have to compete with other industries to recruit and hire employees. Plan for employee retention to be a serious issue.

Women- and Minority-Owned Restaurants

A workforce made up of people from all backgrounds has always been a cornerstone of the restaurant industry. It is also an industry in which workers who begin their careers in entry level positions regularly climb the ladder, often to restaurant ownership. In recent years women- and minority-owned restaurants have experienced faster growth than the overall industry, and that trend is expected to continue.

Moderate Sales Growth

According to the NRA, 2016 will represent the 7th consecutive year of sales growth. Quick-service sales growth will continue to outperform its table-service counterpart in 2016. Snack and non-alcohol beverage bars will see robust growth.

Technology Issues

The National Restaurant Association has found that 2 in 5 consumers feel that technology has made restaurant visits and ordering more complicated. Technology is meant to make our lives easier but not all systems are created equal. The NRA’s findings indicate that not all technology represents an advance, and not all systems are user friendly. Restaurants will be tasked with refining the technology they adopt to create a better overall guest experience.

Mobile Payments

Speaking of technology, one of the categories experiencing the fastest growth is mobile payments. Operators are likely already aware of the number of so-called “wallet apps” and mobile payment devices already on the market. The trend is expected to grow even though many consumers appear to be on the fence about the technology.

The Next Foodie Generation

Today’s younger guest expects more from their dining experience than previous generations. This is partly due to the younger generation dining in restaurants much more often than the generations before them. They expect sustainable food practices, diet-specific foods, and attention paid to food production and sourcing. Restaurant operators will have to find a balance between catering to the younger generation’s specific tastes and avoiding the alienation of older diners.