Source: US Census Bureau, 2021
Eating out has become a fashionable lifestyle among consumers in the United States. And, even with the pandemic in full swing, many still desire to enjoy a meal or a drink with friends and loved ones. Restaurants are not just a place to get food. They are also a place to commune. In this article, we’ll show and discuss key numbers and statistics that make the restaurant industry move before the pandemic. This article will discuss the different kinds of restaurants in the market- quick-service restaurants (QSR’s) and full-service restaurants (FSR’s).
Quick service restaurants include limited-service eating places, fast-food restaurants, pizza-delivery establishments, ice cream parlors, beverage bars, cafeterias, carryout sandwich shops, and carryout service shops with on-premise baking of donuts, cookies, and bagels.
Quick service restaurant chains are regularly called into question due to their supply and production of unhealthy foods. During an online survey in 2016, 39% of the respondents said that healthy options play a major role when choosing a fast-food restaurant.
In 2016, a survey carried out among Americans aged 18 years and older determined how frequently they eat at quick-service restaurants. 20% of the respondents said they dine out at quick-service restaurants once per week while 18% stated that they dine out several times per week. Of course, the number changed after the pandemic broke out.
In the US, 46% of consumers are likely to avoid going to restaurants and cafes even when the restrictions are lifted because of COVID-19. It is the top 7th on the list that includes cinema/theater (58%), music festivals (58%), sports events (56%), and pubs/bars/clubs (56%).
Cinema / Theater%
Pubs / Bars / Clubs%
Gym / Sports Centers%
Restaurant / Cafes%
Large Retail Shops / Shopping Centers%
Museums / Galleries%
Shopping Downtown / Highstreet%
Source: Statista COVID-19 Barometer, 2020Designed by
Full-service restaurants (FSRs) are restaurants mainly engaged in providing food services to customers who order and are served while seated and pay after eating. It was estimated that there were 33,160 FSR franchise establishments in 2019.
Most Americans, 44% to be exact, stated in a pre-pandemic survey that they very much enjoy dining out at a full-service restaurant.
One of the hallmarks of a great city is a smorgasbord of great places to eat. The “food scene” according to Joe Cortright, principal economist with Impresa, is an important component of the urban experience.
The biggest restaurant city is San Francisco, with 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households. Other restaurant-dense cities include New York City, the areas outside of New York City, Boston, Seattle, and San Jose, California.
Each year, the QSR magazine takes the pulse of the quick-service landscape – from systemwide sales to average-unit volumes, in order to take a peek at the country’s most dynamic industries, which is often referred to as the heartbeat of the American consumer.
Although it’s pulled back significantly in the last couple of years, sandwich giant Subway remains by a great deal the largest restaurant chain. Its 24,798 domestic locations are 9,973 ahead of Starbucks.
Chick-fil-A claimed the number one spot as America’s best fast-food chain for the fourth year in a row, according to the 2019 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). In 2020, it retained its title with a score of 84. It trumped all fast-food chains including big old McDonald’s which netted a whopping 40.1 billion sales during the year. This is against Chick-fil-A’s 4.5 billion.
Chic-fil-A is also the top fast-food chain in the chicken category. Its closest rival as the best restaurant when it comes to customer satisfaction is Chipotle with a rating of 80, beating it by 4 points. The average ACSI rating is 78. And, many brands fall below in 2020.
These include popular favorites including Little Caesar’s (76), Taco Bell (74), and McDonald’s.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Source: ACSI, 2020Designed by
Ibis World reported that there are 125,444 chain restaurant businesses in the US as of 2020, with a 1.4% year-on-year average growth from 2015-2020. The number of businesses in the chain restaurant industry is expected to grow by 1.9% in 2020. The Southeast region is where most of the chain restaurants are located.
In Spring 2018, there were 307,940 chain restaurants and 352,815 independent restaurants in the US.
Anyone who owns a restaurant will tell you that it’s way harder than it looks. If you manage to push through your initial year with only a few hiccups, you can expect to hit your return of investment (ROI) in roughly 4 years. The industry standard is 3 to 5 years.
Owing to how challenging it is to run the different aspects of a food service establishment, the SaaS industry has its own sector called restaurant management software.
In 2015, there were approximately 14 million people working within the industry, and this number is expected to reach over 16 million by 2026.
In 2019, roughly 3.88 million employees worked in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) franchise industry in the US. This is a 35% increase since 2010.
On the other hand, employment in the table/full-service restaurant franchise industry was estimated at 1,116,894 in 2019.
Like other service-oriented industries, the hours in the foodservice industry are varied and can be demanding, so one can argue that the pay is not commensurate to the energy and effort employees put into their work.
Since 2004, the quick-service restaurant sector (QSR) in the US has seen year-over-year growth, with its peak consumer spending reaching approximately $300 billion in 2018. Similarly, a notable 7% decline in consumer spending was seen in 2019.
According to the 2017 fall census from NPD group, the number of independent restaurants in the US fell 3%, which brings the number to 346,105 units, a decrease of 10,952 units from the same period last year. This came as a result of chain restaurants remaining flat with their 2016 numbers.
The drop in independent restaurants was mostly in sit-down restaurants, as Americans increasingly favor grab-and-go delivery options. Overall, the number of US restaurants declined 2% for the period to 647,288 units. Full-service restaurants on the other hand, also fell 2%, to 294167.
The restaurant business is very tough. The average lifespan of a restaurant is five years and according to some estimates, up to 90% of new ones fail within the first year. However, there are some very successful exceptions that manage to succeed amidst challenges and competition.
National Restaurant Association conducted the What’s Hot survey in November-December 2019, wherein 600 American Culinary Federation chefs answered an online survey, asking them to rate how hot below trends would be on a scale from sizzling hot, steaming, simmering, and just room temperature.
Top 10 overall restaurant trends for 2020:
While some of these trends already sound familiar and are self-explanatory, others are new to the ear, or at least in terms of what it’s called. For instance, stress relievers refer to ingredients in the food that promote relaxation/relieve stress. Specialty burger blends include mushroom-beef burgers and other plant-based burger patties options.
Aside from the above-mentioned trends, food halls will continue to grow in popularity as aspiring restaurateurs realize that they don’t need to sink all their startup budget into brick-and-mortar locations. Food halls are communal dining spaces where operators can rent a booth to test out their restaurant concept.
When it comes to QSRs, lifestyle campaigns and limited-time offers (LTOs) will be key to marketing. more and more restaurants will invest in wacky and Instagrammable merchandise as part of their customer retention efforts. Brands will also continue to lean into specialty LTOs in order to pique consumer interest and drive social media engagement.
The restaurant industry is the type of business that if you don’t evolve or innovate, your business will die. Consumers will eventually get tired of the same menu, hence introducing new product concepts is one of the keys to keeping your restaurant afloat. It’s crucial for the restaurant owners to be perceptive and know what their clients want. Because as the lifestyle of people changes, so does their diet.
Of course, COVID-19 has thrown a temporary wrench into the gears of these plans. And, in some business sense, the pandemic has brought in a statistical anomaly. Nevertheless, many hopefuls, including restaurant owners, foodies, culinary professionals, and the common man are itching to get some normalcy back into the restaurant industry.
But it is good to note that the pandemic has also squeezed out many innovations from our go-to food places.
Firstly, the increased use of technology for marketing and distribution was very apparent during the pandemic. Secondly, a new range of food that travels well have been developed. And, many new smaller players have come to help fill demand gaps.
The year 2020 was surely a statistical anomaly. But all roads point towards the industry pushing to get things back to the way they were before. The restaurant industry is very innovative. And, surely, we can all hope that it can find ways to get through this pandemic and take it back to what it was before.
FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.