The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with American Express and Nestlé Professional, released its 10-year outlook report on the projected state of the restaurant industry in 2030. The report, “Restaurant Industry 2030: Actionable Insights for the Future,” examines the key indicators shaping the future of the industry, identifies the most and least likely developments over the upcoming decade, and considers possible disrupters outside the industry that could transform it. The findings are based on input from a variety of restaurant sector experts, futurists, and government statistics.
Key economic projections for 2030 include:
- Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2030.
- The industry workforce will likely exceed 17 million by 2030.
- Total U.S. employment is projected to increase at an annual rate of 0.5% during the next decade.
- Total U.S. employment is expected to increase by 8.5% between 2018 and 2030.
“The restaurant industry is at a crossroads as it finds ways to respond to consumer demand for meal and snack solutions away from home,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association. “Restaurant owners are swiftly adapting across their businesses to meet the wants and needs of guests. The radical transformation of the last decade will change the way the industry operates going forward. It’s exciting to ponder how the industry will grow and transform over the next 10 years, and consider how the Association can best support the industry in capitalizing on these opportunities.”
The definition of “restaurant” will change as off-premises continues to drive industry growth.
Over the next decade, technology and data will become a greater focus for restaurants as they adapt to growing consumer expectations in the on-demand world. Guests will expect a seamless digital experience and want their preferences known at each interaction with a restaurant. As off-premises traffic and sales continue to accelerate, consumers will place heightened importance on experiential dining for on-premises occasions. Areas to watch include:
- A greater proportion of meals will no longer be cooked at home, lending to the continued rise in delivery, virtual restaurants, subscription services, and grab-and-go at retail locations.
- Cloud kitchens will continue to grow, fueled by the expansion of centralized kitchens and the growth of online, delivery-only brands.
- Consumers may grow increasingly loyal to third-party delivery apps, impacting loyalty to individual restaurants.
- Governments are likely to impose further regulation on third-party delivery.
- Drive-thrus could need to accommodate interactions with self-driving vehicles.
- The restaurant of the future will be smaller in size. Smaller restaurants could incorporate more automated kitchen equipment and the typical kitchen layout may change.
Nutrition and sustainability will drive menus.
Sustainable sourcing and transparency will continue to grow in focus for consumers over the next decade. In order to remain competitive, restaurants will need to adapt to evolving dietary restrictions and consumer preferences. Food trends and menus will naturally evolve to reflect the increasingly health-conscious, ecological mindset of the consumer. Areas to watch include:
- Single-use restaurant packaging, including in delivery, will evolve.
- Artificial intelligence with knowledge of cooking techniques, food chemistry, recipes, and alcohol could produce unexpected new culinary and beverage experiences.
- Advanced genetic knowledge and the rising incidence of lifestyle diseases are likely to create a growing demand for meals that provide specific health benefits to diners.
The restaurant workforce is changing.
Population growth at an expected annual rate of 0.7% between 2018 and 2030, accompanied by changing demographics in the next decade, is expected to lead to an average labor growth rate of 0.5% annually between 2018 and 2028. With slower labor-force growth, restaurants will continue to compete against other industries for talent, making recruitment and retention vital to success in the coming decade. Restaurant employers will adopt career-focused mentalities as operators enhance retention by offering benefits and long-term career paths to success. Key statistics and areas to watch include:
- The number of adults in the labor force 65 and older is expected to reach a record high of 16.1 million by 2028.
- The number of teenagers in the labor force is expected to decline to 5.1 million by 2028, its lowest level in 65 years.
- Operators will automate more routine back-of-house tasks to enhance productivity and efficiency.
“Deconstructing possible trends and innovations of the next decade will help both large and small-business owners in the restaurant industry anticipate their greatest challenges,” said Riehle. “With these actionable insights for the future, restaurants will remain an integral part of the economy and a cornerstone of every community across this nation.”
Download the full Restaurant Industry 2030 report at Restaurant.org/Restaurants2030