Full-Service Restaurants Face Uphill Battle Heading into 2017

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12 May 2017 --- A recent Technomic report has indicated that the restaurant industry overall fared relatively well in 2016, but full service has experienced some highs and lows, with annual sales growth dipping to 1.4% and unit growth remaining flat. Traditional casual-dining chains most heavily contributed to this segment’s troubles. The top five largest full-service brands, four of which are casual dining, all either had negative or slow sales in 2016.

“Full-service chains continue to face strong competition from full-service independents and regional chain restaurants, which provide a more local experience,” says Darren Tristano, Winsight’s chief insights officer. “Today’s consumer looks for a more contemporary atmosphere, a strong adult beverage program and a menu of food and beverages that caters to local preferences. Operators also face stiff competition from limited-service restaurants that offer value, convenience, speed and customization.”

Bright spots within full service are polished/upscale and contemporary casual-dining chains, which increased sales by 4% and 4.5%, respectively. Even fine dining saw sales growth rise by 4.9% due to the affluence of the sector’s customer base, quality of offerings found at these brands and appeal this segment has with today’s consumer.

Growth categories include:

  • Asian: The 4.3% sales jump of this category represents consumer interest in more specialty-focused brands, as well as the continued appeal of ethnic cuisines.
  • Sports Bar: The 3.9% sales increase for this menu category demonstrates that opportunity still exists for brands to appeal to consumers with a varied craft beer selection, craveable pub fare like burgers and wings, and an overall sports-focused atmosphere.
  • Steak: This segment, which saw sales up 2.9%, had strong results from Texas Roadhouse (up 8.8%). Steakhouses are finding favor with consumers because they marry quality food and service with an inviting atmosphere.

Technomic’s 2017 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report provides an exclusive one-year sales forecast by menu category, an expanded outlook and opportunities section, as well as key themes to help navigate the current industry landscape.

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