NRA Forecasts 1.1% Real Growth For Foodservice In 2011

The National Restaurant Association predicts the foodservice industry will reverse three consecutive years of real declines in sales and post nominal sales growth of 3.6% and real growth of 1.1% in 2011. Menu-price inflation is forecast at 2.5%. The group released its annual forecast during a media webinar Feb. 1.

“As the national economy is slowly improving, the restaurant industry is climbing out of its most challenging period in decades to post positive real sales growth in 2011,” said Hudson Riehle, senior v.p. of NRA’s Research & Knowledge Group, in a press release announcing the forecast.

NRA projects the two largest industry segments, full service and quick service, will each post real growth this year. Full-service restaurants are projected to grow 3.1% in current dollars and 0.7% in real terms. Quick-service restaurants are forecast to grow 3.3% in nominal terms and 0.9% in real terms.

NRA’s optimism about growth by the two largest commercial segments contrasts with the forecasts of Technomic Inc. While Technomic revised its initial September forecast for full service up half a point in January, it continues to predict the segment will show a real decline of 0.5% this year. Technomic held its quick-service forecast flat in real terms. The differences in the forecasts for these two large segments help account for Technomic’s revised ’11 forecast remaining slightly negative for the year. (See related article.)

Segments slated by NRA to show above average growth include social caterers (3.6% real), lodging (3.2% real), military foodservice (3% real) and transportation (2.7%).

Among the regions, the South Atlantic states are forecast to show the strongest growth, with combined nominal sales up 3.9%. NRA predicts North Carolina will show the strongest growth in the country, with sales up 4.2%. Virginia is expected to show 4% growth, while housing-battered Florida is forecast to return to 3.9% growth. Other states with relatively strong growth forecasts include the northern Mountain states of Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Texas, which outperformed all states during the downturn, is expected to show 3.9% growth.

On the other hand, New England, with growth forecast at only 2.8%; the West and East North Central and East South Central regions, at 3.1%; as well as the Pacific states at 3.2% will lag behind the national average.

For further information and to obtain a copy of the complete forecast, which includes a wealth of data on consumer behavior, menu and food trends, the impact of social media on restaurants and other information, visit the association’s website at


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