The restaurant category is one of the largest segments in franchising. While QSR (quick serve restaurants) is the dominant type of restaurant franchise, full service and fast casual concepts continue to grow. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) predicts that 2013 will see moderate growth in the industry, approximately 3.8% over 2012, despite rising commodity prices, high unemployment and gloomy consumer confidence. But growth is growth and these days, we’ll take it. Even with the moderate growth predicted for 2013, the NRA estimates that the restaurant industry will be one of the major job creators in the U.S., outpacing average employment percentages. In fact, the industry is the nation’s second largest private sector employer.
A major challenge both franchise and non-franchise restaurant operators will face are the additional layers of regulation they will see in 2013. From new employment laws in California to the implementation of President Obama’s health care law, operational costs will necessarily increase, making profit margins even tighter. The good news, according the NRA, is that consumers continue to want to eat out more often. The challenge for the restaurant operator is how to wade through the legal morass, which varies from state to state. The ability to deliver great value to the consumer while remaining mean and lean in this economy will test the mettle of this industry like never before.