5 Foodservice Stats to Toast at the Close of 2014

As restaurants and retailers wait eagerly for December’s final sales numbers to roll in, let’s pause to enjoy five stats worth celebrating from 2014.

  1. Many Americans are feeling better about their finances! Forty-two percent of American consumers polled by Technomic and American Express in November this year said they are “living comfortably” or are “very well off”—that compares with 34% who said the same a year ago and 21% who felt on pretty firm financial footing in November 2012.
  2. Fast casual is still on a tear. As we noted last week, same-store sales at leading fast-casual chain restaurants grew 8% in Q3. Casual-dining and quick-service chains saw modest same-store sales upticks of 1.9% and 1.2%, respectively, during the same period.
  3. Improved consumer confidence—thanks, job growth and falling gas prices!—should contribute to growth in alcohol beverage sales in 2015. Technomic forecasts that consumer expenditures on alcohol will rise 2.7% at on-premise locations such as restaurants, bars and concessions areas next year. Income inequality is a serious issue with which the restaurant industry will contend in 2015 and beyond, but fine-dining restaurants, pricier lodging establishments and other facilities that serve higher-income clientele fared well in 2014 and are expected to continue to outperform other venues in alcohol beverage sales growth next year.
  4. More money in Millennials’ pockets = more foodservice visits. More members of this huge consumer cohort are reaching their prime earning years, and that’s good news for traffic-hungry restaurants. More than one-third of Millennials polled for Technomic’s 2014 Generational Consumer Trend Report said they’re visiting restaurants and other foodservice locations more often now than they were two years ago.
  5. Consumers indicated this year that they’d be more likely to “trade up” from a fast-casual restaurant to a traditional casual-dining spot than to “trade down” from a fast-casual concept to a fast-food one. Two years ago, equal shares of consumers (43%) named casual-dining and fast-food restaurants as preferred alternatives to fast-casual concepts. In 2014, 47% said they’d be likely to choose a traditional CDR (such as Applebee’s) as a fast-casual alternative; 40% said a fast-food outlet would be a leading contender. Consumers’ growing willingness to spend a bit more for what they perceive to be a higher-quality experience is a good sign for the struggling casual-dining segment.

Consumers still are price-conscious—they’re no less likely to be seeking out deals and promotions than they were during the recession (indeed, deal-seeking behavior is ingrained now). But we see signs that they’re willing to spend when they’re confident that their foodservice purchase will be a good overall value. An emphasis on the whole of the dining-out experience and on offering fresh, premium-tasting flavors—quality beats quantity, from a menu perspective—at a competitive prices will help restaurant brands win consumers over (over and over again) in 2015.


Christine LaFave Grace

Christine LaFave Grace writes for and produces Technomic's Trends & Directions e-newsletters. She joined Technomic in 2013 as an associate editor. Her previous roles include assistant digital editor for Crain Communications’ Modern Healthcare magazine and associate editor at Reed Business Information’s Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

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  1. These stats indicate that food service is in the beginnings of a consistent and long-standing uptrend– 2015 looks like it will give rise to a bright and profitable period for many restaurants across the board.

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