Bad Girl, Good Business

Table for 783 Billion, Please! (Business of Fun #22)

What’s the significance of 783 billion?

That’s the total sales in the restaurant industry — $783 billion! Yesterday, we whipped up a batch of facts about dining in and home cooking. Today, the focus is dining out.

We clearly love to do that. For the first time in history, people in the U.S. are spending more money dining out than buying groceries. And even when we eat in these days, we sometimes order in food from restaurants — a phenomenon that has its roots in the 1950s, when people became glued to their televisions and restaurants came up with the idea of “carry-out” to keep their revenues from sinking. Now GrubHub (which owns Seamless) is filling-up on a new stream of diners. Their revenues were up 36% the fourth quarter of last year.

We’re now eating out about 4.5 times a week on average, with Italian food still topping the charts as preferred cuisine. You can find more tasty tidbits about what and where we’re eating in Zagat’s “State of American Dining” report.

From the Mouths of Millennials

Millennials and technology are both having an impact on restaurant trends. (What industry AREN’T they having an impact on?) Millennials eat out more often than Boomers or Gen X, they want healthy food with ethics, and they are ashamed to eat fast food.

Technology has had an impact on both the front and back of the house in the restaurant business. Although the industry as a whole is a little behind the curve (given the large number of small restaurants and time spent in the kitchen rather than on a screen), virtually all aspects of business operations are being automated — from inventory and ordering to staff scheduling to marketing (Instagram is on fire with food pix).

Consumers are using their devices to curate, reserve, and order food. Pizza Hut is introducing a chat bot function this fall and digital wallets help turn tables faster and result in larger tips too.

What’s on the Menu for the Future?

The hamburger is here to stay (as are ancient grains). We will continue to “personalize” our food and will use our devices to view our options and place our orders. But the good news is that as customer expectations for quality and service get higher, smart restauranteurs will use data and technology for better training, menu-planning, and customer targeting. Here’s a great piece (just published today, in fact! on why restaurants need to embrace technology.

And restaurants will probably continue to be an interesting mixture of chains, “power groups” and single-location establishments. (9 out of 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees, although 14.4 people work in restaurants overall!)

Sadly, 60% of restaurants fail in the first year. Contemplating leaving your job for the kitchen? Heed this advice before you put on that apron or chef coat.

P.S. Hope you enjoyed this overview of the restaurant (and take-out) world. For more delicious facts about trends, please subscribe to our newsletter, getONit! theONswitch delivers every time!

 


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