Nobody needs to remind restaurant marketers about the dark days of 2009. Selling discretionary products and services is challenging in the best of times, but when the economy slows dining out is one of the first luxuries to go. We saw the tremendous toll the Great Recession exacted on the entire restaurant industry and the casual dining segment in particular. But, the skies have cleared and industry sales are rolling again with projections showing a boost of 3.7 percent this year over 2014. But this means a bump in sales of 3.7 percent is simply treading water. Strong operators should be looking for a much healthier gain than that, and 2015 offers perfect conditions for those who are properly prepared to seize the moment.
1. People are eating out more. Just over 50 percent of all meals were eaten away from home in 2013, which set an all-time record, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. The previous record of 47.1 percent was set in 2007, but the recession had erased that success by the end of 2008. The industry didn’t see pre-recession levels again for five long years. Today, the tide has risen enough to lift all seaworthy boats. If your comp sales haven’t been pacing with positive national sales trends of the last few years something is amiss. Why are people eating out more? The USDA says, “Two-earner households and busier lifestyles have led consumers to spend less time cooking and seek the convenience of food prepared away from home.” And, that leads us to the second trend.
It may be awhile before restaurant marketers have this much wind at their backs again. Take full advantage of these favorable conditions because we all know they can and will change quickly and without much notice. There’s no time like now for growth.