Consumers are eating out more often and pushing restaurant sales to a new high, according to a Feb. 17 report from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The organization is predicting foodservice sales will reach $782.7 billion in 2016, a 5 percent hike over last year’s sales volume of $745.6 billion. That’s a 2.1 percent increase when adjusted for inflation, marking the first time in more than 10 years that industry sales rose by more than 2 percent in adjusted terms in consecutive years.

Explaining the record sales, the NRA says consumers have seen “their finances improved by years of saving, an improving economy and lower gas prices.”

The industry also keeps creating jobs at a fast pace, adding 46,700 workers in January 2016. But there are still obstacles ahead of us. For example, it’s getting harder to find qualified workers, and openings are taking longer to fill. “Though the overall economy is trending in the right direction, the operating environment isn’t without challenges going into 2016,” Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research, said in a prepared statement. “With overall tightening in some labor markets, we’re seeing recruitment and retention making a comeback as a top challenge for restaurant operators.”

Read the detailed NRA report here.

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