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US Restaurant Industry 2030: the findings

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National Restaurant Association’s reveals sales will likely reach $1.2 trillion and workforce exceed 17 million by 2030, reports Amelia Levin

Released earlier this week, the report, Restaurant Industry 2030: Actionable Insights for the Future, developed in partnership with American Express and Nestlé Professional, examines the key indicators shaping the future of the industry in the US.

The report identifies the most and least likely developments over the upcoming decade, and considers possible disrupters outside the industry that could transform it. The findings are based on input from a variety of restaurant sector experts, futurists, and government statistics.

US restaurant industry sales are expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2030, while the industry workforce will likely exceed 17 million by 2030, the report predicted.

“The restaurant industry is at a crossroads as it finds ways to respond to consumer demand for meal and snack solutions away from home,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

“Restaurant owners are swiftly adapting across their businesses to meet the wants and needs of guests. The radical transformation of the last decade will change the way the industry operates going forward. It’s exciting to ponder how the industry will grow and transform over the next 10 years, and consider how the Association can best support the industry in capitalizing on these opportunities.

The definition of “restaurant” will also change as off-premises continues to drive industry growth.

Tech and data

Over the next decade, technology and data will become a greater focus for restaurants as they adapt to growing consumer expectations in the on-demand world. Guests will expect a seamless digital experience and want their preferences known at each interaction with a restaurant. As off-premise traffic and sales continue to accelerate, consumers will place a heightened importance on experiential dining for on-premises occasions.

A greater proportion of meals will no longer be cooked at home, lending to the continued rise in delivery, virtual restaurants, subscription services, and grab-and-go at retail locations. At the same time, cloud kitchens will continue to grow, fueled by the expansion of centralized kitchens and the growth of online, delivery-only brands.

Consumers may grow increasingly loyal to third-party delivery apps, which could reduce brand loyalty. Governments are likely to impose further regulation on third-party delivery, and drive-thru operations might need to accommodate interactions with self-driving vehicles.

The restaurant of the future will also be smaller in size. Smaller restaurants could incorporate more automated kitchen equipment and the typical kitchen layout may change, according to the report.

Nutrition and sustainability will drive menus, as will sustainable sourcing and transparency, and in order to remain competitive, restaurants will need to adapt to evolving dietary restrictions and consumer preferences.

Improved technologies will have a major impact on restaurants, according to the report. Artificial intelligence with knowledge of cooking techniques, food chemistry, recipes, and alcohol could produce unexpected new culinary and beverage experiences.

The nature of the restaurant workforce is also predicted to change. With slower labor-force growth, restaurants will continue to compete against other industries for talent, making recruitment and retention vital to success in the coming decade, and this could mean adopting career-focused mentalities by offering benefits and longer-term paths to success.

Further details:

Download the full Restaurant Industry 2030 report at Restaurant.org/Restaurants2030.

Amelia Levin