Technomic Sees Slow Foodservice Recovery During Next 18 Months

After the greatest foodservice recession in decades, the market is finally beginning to show signs of recovery. That was the word from the researchers and analysts at Technomic Inc.’s annual day-long conference, Restaurants 2010: Trends and Directions, held June 23 in Rosemont, Ill. But Technomic principal and founder Ron Paul cautioned that high unemployment and underemployment, a "new frugality" among consumers, and slow income and spending growth will restrain the pace of foodservice operator growth well into next year.

"Some consumers have decided they can forego eating out," Paul said. He also noted that with unemployment and underemployment at more than 16%—and with the number as high as 25% in some communities—some consumers have little choice but to "trade down or trade out." With economists forecasting that employment growth will be painfully slow over the next few years, Technomic analysts have little choice but to assume foodservice sales and traffic growth will also be very sluggish. "It really all comes down to jobs and employment," Paul said.

Still, Technomic research presented during the conference showed that both operators and consumers believe the economy and foodservice market have bottomed out. In a survey Technomic undertook of consumer attitudes, only about 8% indicated they have permanently changed their attitude toward dining out. A large majority of consumers would like to eat out more often, if finances allow

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