Food and Beverage

Restaurant Industry's 2004 Growth Estimated at 4.4 Percent

- Association forecasts record sales of $440.1 billion, 13th consecutive year of growth

Next year should be a good one for the restaurant industry.

According to the National Restaurant Association 2004 Restaurant Industry Forecast, the restaurant industry will grow 4.4 percent in 2004 to a record $440.1 billion in annual sales.

A strong desire by Americans to dine out, coupled with a healthy 3 percent increase in real disposable personal income, will fuel the industry's growth. Americans view restaurants very favorably, and greater amounts of cash on hand means consumers may spend some of that dining out, explained Hudson Riehle, the Association's senior vice president of Research and Information Services.

Among the 2004 highlights:

• The restaurant industry’s anticipated sales of $440.1 billion equal 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.
• Next year will mark the 13th consecutive year of real growth for the restaurant industry.
• The number of restaurant locations in the United States will grow to 878,000.
• The restaurant industry will employ 12 million people, making it the largest private-sector employer in the nation.
"Restaurants serve as an important and essential component of the American lifestyle, as well as the cornerstone of the national economy. As that role evolves, restaurants will continue to grow," said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association.

2004 public-policy agenda also unveiled
As part of its mission to represent, educate and promote the restaurant industry, the National Restaurant Association announced its 2004 public-policy agenda in conjunction with its 2004 Forecast. The Association's public-policy priorities for 2004 include:

• Ensuring continued economic growth: The Association supports bills that would shorten the restaurant-building depreciation schedule, increase the business-meal deduction, and permanently repeal the federal estate tax.
• Immigration reform to ensure that immigration policy in the United States not only secures U.S. borders but also matches willing employers with willing employees.
• Making health insurance more widely accessible by convincing Congress to enact legislation that would enable business owners to join together across state lines to buy health insurance through "Association Health Plans" (AHPs).
• Renewing the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
• Blocking a hike in the federal entry-level wage.
• Supporting clarification of federal overtime regulations to simplify the rules.
• Litigation reform. The Association supports class-action-lawsuit reform, advance notice for Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits, and bans on obesity-related lawsuits against restaurants.

"We'll be aggressive in the political arena in 2004," said Lee Culpepper, the Association's senior vice president of Government Affairs and Public Policy. "We'll set a record in our PAC donations, and we'll support lawmakers who support the restaurant industry, whether they're Republicans or Democrats."

Top restaurant trends for 2004
Several developments will shape the restaurant industry in 2004. They include:
• Continued expansion, driven by Americans' need for convenience and socialization, and a healthy increase in disposable income.
• New menu items in response to diners' increasingly sophisticated tastes, and heightened interest in health and nutrition.
• Greater efforts by lawmakers to regulate restaurants.
Mountain states to pace regional growth
The Association expects restaurant sales growth in all nine U.S regions next year. The Mountain region (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) is expected to lead the nation with a projected growth rate of 6.1 percent. Nevada will lead all states with 6.8 percent sales growth.
As the number of restaurant locations continues to grow, it is expected that the number of jobs will continue to grow as well. While U.S. employment fell 0.2 percent in 2003, restaurant employment is projected to grow 1.2 percent for 2003. "Every additional $1 million in restaurant sales generate 40 more jobs," said Riehle.

Related Links:

• 2004 Forecast Executive Summary (PDF)

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