April 06, 2023

Restaurant Industry Continues to Grow, Operators Optimistic

Sales and hiring levels in February indicate ongoing improvement
Washington, D.C. –  New data and economic insights collected by the National Restaurant Association suggest that the restaurant industry’s growth remains steady, despite macroeconomic challenges. Continued consumer spending, supported by a healthy labor market, led to significant year-over-year improvement of sales at restaurants in February that has many restaurant operators optimistic about the months ahead. 

The new year has already provided a boost for operators, with total eating and drinking place sales in January and February more than 19% above the first two months of 2022. 

A majority of operators expect the current positive trajectory will continue, with 6 in 10 predicting that sales will be higher in six months. Operators have also experienced some financial relief in recent months, as the cost of certain food commodities continues to trend downward; however, average wholesale food prices remain well above their pre-pandemic levels. 

Menu prices, meanwhile, rose 8.4% during the last 12 months, with the Midwest and West regions registering the highest gains in recent months. This growth was still well below recent gains in grocery store prices, which increased 10.2%.

“The restaurant industry’s growth remains on track, driven by resilient consumers and a healthy labor market,” said Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the National Restaurant Association. “While the path forward won’t be without challenges, we expect the industry to continue on a positive trajectory in the months ahead.”

February Results:
  • Same-store sales higher: 73% of restaurant operators reported an increase in same-store sales in February 2023, compared to February 2022. 
  • Customer traffic mixed: 51% of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic in February. 
  • Employment recovery uneven: Restaurant employment remains below pre-pandemic levels in 28 states.
While industry employment remains below pre-pandemic levels, restaurants continue to hire, creating nearly 70,000 jobs in February. In its 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, the Association pointed out that the foodservice industry workforce is projected to grow by 500,000 jobs, which would bring total industry employment to 15.5 million by the end of 2023. The annual report also forecast the foodservice industry to reach $997 billion in sales in 2023.

About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises more than 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.5 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find @WeRRestaurants on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.