Restaurant Industry Sales Forecast to Set Record

Operators are cautiously optimistic, with nearly 8 in 10 predicting their sales will increase or hold steady.

Many consumers say ordering takeout from a restaurant is an essential part of their lifestyle.

Restaurant sales could exceed $1.1 trillion this year, marking a milestone for the industry that will employ over 15.7 million people in the U.S. by the end of 2024, according to the National Restaurant Association 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry Report.

Key report findings, by the numbers, include the following:



The percentage of operators who predict their sales will increase from 2023 levels. As much as 45% of operators estimate sales will hold steady. “Restaurant operators are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead,” the association says.



The percentage of consumers—including 67% of millennials and 63% of Gen Z adults—who say ordering takeout from a restaurant is an essential part of their lifestyle. Expect delivery, carry-out and drive-thru growth to continue.



The percentage of operators who say they need more employees to meet customer demand. As many as 70% have job openings that are hard to fill. Overall, things are improving on the labor front but it’s still a work in progress.



The number of operators who expect to be more profitable in 2024. The association points to the increase in food costs and wages and their impact on profitability.



The number of adults who describe their local economy, including the availability of jobs, as excellent or good. “Jobs drive consumer spending,” the association says.


Related to equipment, the report shares that 54% of operators saw delays or shortages of equipment or service items, marking one of multiple challenges they face. Plus, operators are interested in technology but only to a point. Only 14% of operators say their restaurant made investments in equipment or technology that replaced an employee in 2023.

For another look at where things are heading, see FER’s 2024 State of the Foodservice Industry, which includes interviews with the association’s Hudson Riehle as well as other industry experts.


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