Foodservice Equipment Reports

NRA Forecasts Modest 3.5% Growth In 2012

The National Restaurant Association forecasts the foodservice industry will grow a modest 3.5% in current dollars in 2012, a slight decline from its estimate of 4% growth in ’11. NRA estimates ’12 will be the third consecutive year of growth following two years of declines during the Great Recession. Sales are forecast to reach a record $631.8 billion.

Real growth is forecast at 0.8% following a 1.3% real gain in ’11 and a 0.6% increase in ’10. Food-away-from-home inflation is estimated at 2.7% for ’12, as it was in `11.

The association released its annual forecast, which also includes extensive data and analysis of consumer, menu and employment trends, as well as detailed forecasts of restaurant sales by region and state, on Feb. 1 during an online press conference.

While the modest growth forecast for ’12 was expected, the slight decline in the growth rate for ’12 versus last year was not. In the press release that accompanied the forecast, NRA cited increased food costs, building and maintaining sales volume and the economy as the industry’s top challenges.

But Hudson Riehle, senior v.p. of NRA’s Research and Knowledge Group, told FER Fortnightly several weeks ago that NRA research shows there is substantial pent-up demand for foodservice. The forecast press release stated two out of five consumers tell NRA they are not using restaurants as often as they would like. An economy improving faster than expected is likely to unleash that demand, which could push sales higher than forecast.

As usual, NRA’s forecast is slightly more optimistic than Technomic Inc.’s forecast. Technomic predicts 2.8% nominal and 0.3% real foodservice industry growth in ’12, up from 2.5% nominal and 0.1% real growth in ’11.

Next issue, we’ll look at NRA growth forecasts for key foodservice segments, regions and states.

The NRA 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast is available in .pdf form at The forecast is free for NRA members and costs $199.95 for non-members.

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