This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of prepared food and drinks for on-premise or immediate consumption. Caterers and industrial food service establishments are also included in this industry.
722110 (Full-Service Restaurants)
722211 (Limited-Service Restaurants)
722213 (Snack and Nonalcoholic Beverage Bars)
722310 (Foodservice Contractors)
711110 (Theater Companies and Dinner Theaters)
According to the National Restaurant Association, there are over 870,000 restaurants in the United States with sales for 2003 expected to top $426 billion. This represents a 4.5 percent increase over 2002, and when adjusted for inflation, sales in 2003, which marks the thirteenth consecutive year of growth, will be 1.8 percent higher than the previous year. From 1970 to 2001, restaurant revenues showed a steady increase, growing at a compound annual rate of 7.5 percent.
Despite being dominated in the advertising media by the mega fast-food chains, such as McDonald's, most restaurants are small operations. More than 70 percent are independent, single unit businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and one out of every three are owned by a sole proprietor or a partnership. According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2000 a full service food-and-drink establishment had average annual revenues of $650,000, and a fast-food restaurant took in an annual average of $585,000.
Eating out has become a stable part of the American lifestyle. In 1955 consumers spent approximately 25 percent of their food money at restaurants. By the turn of the century, in a single day an average of 4 out of every 10 people frequented an eating establishment, and the total portion of the American food dollar spent eating out had grown to 45 percent.
The classification for eating places encompasses a wide variety of eating establishments, including five star gourmet restaurants, roadside cafes, fast-food joints, soda fountains, casual dining establishments, pizza parlors, hot dog stands, tea rooms, and oyster bars, to name but a few. The sector for full-service restaurants was the largest in the industry in 1998, with sales of $112 billion, or 33 percent of the total food service market, according to the National Restaurant Association. One of the strongest areas within this market was casual dining, that is, moderately priced dining houses offering a comprehensive menu at a reasonable price. Chains of casual dining houses, such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, had combined sales of more than $3 billion in 1998, up significantly from 1997. This sector of the industry began to experience a slowdown in growth in the late 1990s due to maturity, competition, and consolidation.
Fast-food restaurants constituted the second largest and fastest growing sector of the industry, with projected 1999 sales of $110.4 billion, or 31 percent of industry sales. Over the preceding two decades this sector's success provided much of the entire industry's growth, and in 1998, about 78 percent of U.S. households used some form of fast food establishment each month.
The biggest companies operating eating places include those operating single concept chains, like McDonald's, and those operating a number of different fast food businesses, such as TRICON Global Restaurants Inc., which runs Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell. Previously run by PepsiCo, the company spun off its restaurants division into a separate, publicly traded company—TRICON—in 1997.
Chain-owned restaurants in general have overtaken independently owned outlets in terms of number of units, possibly due to their greater stability and lower failure rate. This trend was likely to continue throughout the year 2000 through mergers and acquisitions, according to the National Restaurant Association's Food Service Industry 2000 report.
For 1999, projected sales were as follows: eating places $238 billion; drinking places $11 billion; managed services $23 billion; hotel/motel restaurants $19 billion; and retail, vending, recreation, and mobile projected sales $30 billion.
The eating place industry grew from family-run restaurants and diners to giant chain restaurants of the 1990s. With few exceptions, the best-known names in the business operated company-run or franchised chains. This has long been the case with fast-food restaurants but was becoming true in other sectors of the industry as well. The general wisdom seemed to be that if a concept is successful, it should be duplicated.
Perhaps more than any other single factor, the growth of franchising has been responsible for the proliferation of eating place chains. Since the early 1970s, franchised eating places have almost tripled their share of the market, from just 15 percent of industry volume in 1970 to about 43 percent in 1995, when one in four eating establishments, about 110,000, were franchises.
Franchising's popularity stems from its many advantages, from the point of view of both the franchiser and franchisee. The franchiser company is able to expand rapidly without the expense of acquiring land, plant, and equipment. These costs are normally covered by the person buying the franchise, who pays a royalty to the franchiser—usually about 5 percent of sales—and gives a percentage toward advertising costs. In return for this outlay, the franchisee is assured of name recognition, which normally guarantees high sales. Although buying a franchise may increase a businessperson's start-up costs compared with those of an independent restaurateur, the returns render it a worthwhile investment. Franchised restaurants offer an extremely low risk, compared with independent eating establishments. Failure rates within the first year are low. Franchisees also benefit from the training and marketing support of the parent company.
The price to be paid for franchise security is a loss of flexibility. Independent restaurant owners are able to plan their own menus, avoid paying a royalty, and create and run their businesses as they see fit, whereas franchisees are restricted by the normally rigid and formulaic terms of the franchise agreement.
Though many of the best known fast food and casual dining chains are franchised, including McDonald's, Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Burger King, and Pizza Hut, many other successful chains are not. Sales for the largest of the nonfranchised chains, the Red Lobster and Olive Garden casual dining houses, both owned by Darden Restaurants, was nearly $3 billion in 1995. Of course, even in the case of the heavily franchised chains, such as McDonald's and Wendy's, the parent company owns a considerable share of the outlets.
The exit of packaged food companies from the restaurant business, a trend that reached its peak by early 1997, created more room for franchisers. After Hershey, Sara Lee, and Ralston Purina had already jettisoned their restaurant operations, General Foods did the same in May 1995 when it spun off its Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and China Coast (which later closed) restaurant chains to form the new public company, Darden Restaurants. Similarly, in early 1997, PepsiCo announced that it would spin off its restaurants division—which included Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell—into a publicly traded company. With PepsiCo's exit, no U.S. packaged food company had a significant presence in the restaurant industry.
As the competition grew more intense in the 1990s, operators became more litigious, going to court in increasing numbers to protect their trademarks and trade dress. The easing of the burden of proof for companies filing trade dress litigation in March 1992 opened the gates for a flood of copycat suits. Defined as the overall appearance that makes a business distinctive, trade dress is becoming more of an issue of contention between competing chains. The Hard Rock Cafe, the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Starbucks Coffee, and the Green Burrito are just a few of the many companies that have brought lawsuits against competitors, charging that their ideas have been plagiarized. Successful suits are extremely profitable and can put the competitor out of business. In 1992, the Houston-based Two Pesos chain was forced to pay $3.7 million to the Taco Cabana chain of San Antonio after a court found that it had wrongly appropriated aspects of the latter's trade dress.
The restaurant business was healthy in the late 1990s, when more than half of the adult population visited an eating place each day. With a steady economy and high consumer confidence level, restaurant and fast-food sales grew steadily and industry profitability was up. The National Restaurant Association's 1999 Foodservice Industry Forecast stated that strong economic growth and soaring consumer sentiment, "helped drive stronger-than-expected growth in 1998. In 1998, more than 50 billion meals were consumed in restaurants or in cafeterias."
The buoyancy of the industry can be traced to a number of factors: women's increased role in the workplace has left them with less time to spend preparing food at home; the proliferation of fast-food and takeout eating places has broadened consumer choice and made eating places a convenient alternative to home-cooked food; and food prices have remained low since the early 1990s, enabling the industry to offer competitive prices, although in 1998, menu prices increased 2.5 percent. More aggressive promotion by eating places of their value for money has resulted in a shift of business from food stores to eating places. According to the National Restaurant Association, "statistics indicate that restaurants have become an increasingly important part of the American lifestyle over the past few decades. About 44 percent of the U.S. food dollar is currently spent at restaurants and other foodservice operations, compared with only 25 percent in 1955. Additionally, restaurant industry sales have increased almost eightfold in the past three decades—from $42.8 billion in 1970 to a projected $354 billion in 1999. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. restaurants increased 66 percent from 1972 to 1996—from 492,000 to 815,000 restaurants."
With the overall strength of the industry, competition remained increasingly fierce throughout the late 1990s. Eating places were forced to stake out a strong identity for themselves and to pay closer attention to consumers, who were becoming increasingly demanding. In 1999, convenience was nearly as important to consumers as value. More and more people simply no longer had the time, and/or the desire, to cook meals and clean up afterwards. The National Restaurant Association reported statistics indicating that "people would rather dine out than entertain at home. More than two out of three adults (68 percent) say that going out to a restaurant with family and/or friends not only gives them an opportunity to socialize but is also a better use of their leisure time than cooking and cleaning up, according to 1998 Association research. Furthermore, more than one out of two consumers (56 percent) report that they are not entertaining at home as often as they were two years ago."
Emerging from this focus on convenience was a sort of hybrid of the traditional full-service restaurant and the fast-food outlet—the home-meal replacement segment (also known as "fast-casual"). Pioneered by Boston Chicken Inc.'s Boston Market chain, home-meal replacement offered fare reminiscent of home cooking—and higher in quality than the typical fast food—through a quick-service restaurant operation. Consumers could now take home food closer in quality to that offered by casual dining houses. This segment of the market faced tough competition and lagging sales in the late 1990s. As a result, Boston Chicken declared Chapter 11.
An offshoot of the home-meal replacement segment emerged in the late 1990s. It was a hybrid restaurant/retail food concept, such as Brinker International's Eatzi's. Also catering to the takeout crowd, these concepts typically look like a market and often offer a wide selection of meal possibilities—some of the gourmet variety—that the customers can combine as they wish and have the onsite chef prepare for takeout. These outlets tend to offer salads, fresh breads, full-service delis, gourmet coffees, and a variety of hot items.
The theme/entertainment restaurant sector was one of the fastest growing areas of the restaurant industry in the late 1990s. In some ways the popularity of such venues was also a matter of convenience, since customers could have their appetites filled for both food and entertainment at the same time. The popular music-oriented Hard Rock Cafe started the trend and was followed by Planet Hollywood (movies), Rainforest Cafe (tropical theme), and Official All-Star Cafe (sports). According to Katherine Paul, in an article published online by Streetnet, "theme-based restaurants serve up side dishes of entertainment and, in many instances, branded merchandise, along with the food."
Meanwhile, the fast-food sector continued to be involved in price wars. McDonald's, Wendy's, and Taco Bell were emphasizing under $1 menu items. By 1999, however, increased labor, advertising, and beef costs were beginning to force the fast feeders to reevaluate their menus. Many fast-food restaurants began to offer value meals, focusing on the full meal, rather than just one or two items. For instance, McDonald's—offered value meals that are numbered. A customer can order by number and receive a sandwich, French fries, and a drink for a lower price than if these were purchased separately. Consumers also have an option to "super size" the meal. For a nominal fee, the meal could increase in size, an added value for the consumer. The stores also tried to lure consumers with promotional kids' meals. These stores offered popular toys in their meals, spurring intense sales increases during the promotion.
Fast food restaurant growth has slowed due to heated competition. Consolidation, the need for high return on investment, and the reduction of company-owned restaurants have all played a factor in growth development. While the outlook for sales remains strong throughout 2000, new store development is expected to decline.
Although the restaurant industry has shown overall growth during the past 30 years, the needs and tastes of consumers began to change during the early years of the 2000s, leaving fast food burger chains struggling to maintain their dominant market share. According to market researcher Technomic, as reported by Restaurant Business in 2003, burger chains held 37.1 percent of the quick-service market in 1997. By 2002, that had fallen to 35.3 percent. Exacerbating the burger sector's losing ways is ongoing price wars waged among McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, and Wendy's, among others. The widely advertised less-than-a-dollar menu items have the chains beating each other up as profit margins have been worn thin all around.
While traditional burger chains struggle with a saturated market and fat-laden menu image, a new breed of restaurant has made big gains. Termed "fast-casual," these eateries are dominated by bakery and deli-style restaurants that offer fresh-baked breads, a range of specialty sandwiches, and may include coffee or alcoholic beverage offerings. Fast-casual eateries are expanding rapidly, and operations reflect a healthy bottom line. Bakery cafes, such as Panera Bread and Atlanta Bread, generated revenues of $14 billion in 2001, up from $13 billion in 2000. Although the trendier bakery shops are leading fast-casual sector, the more traditional sub shops, such as Subway, Quizno's, Schlotzsky's, and Blimpie's, are showing exceptional growth.
In January 2003 Restaurants and Institutions predicted that the quick-serve price wars, led by McDonald's one-dollar menu, will continue unabated. While McDonald's tries to crush its competition with price, it suffers from a dated image and market saturation, which have been reflected in declining U.S. revenues. On the other hand, Wendy's, the only burger chain to post an increased market share in 2002, is working on a niche within fast food, namely salads and other healthy menu offerings. Although other burger chains have followed suit, they have not turned the corner on changing their saturatedfats image. Other forecasts in the fast-food sector included an increasing acceptance of payment by credit card, increased number of mergers and acquisitions among the major chains, the additional of new menu items, and a focus on revamping existing facilities.
The restaurant industry may be highly competitive, but it has a clear leader, the McDonald's Corporation, which recorded total sales of $15.4 billion in 2002. According to Lebhar-Friedman, at least 96 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 65 have eaten at one of 30,000 McDonald's restaurants worldwide. McDonald's spends more than $1 billion on advertising and promotion every year to make sure that diners worldwide will not forget their logo, the golden arches.
Ray Kroc, the man chiefly responsible for McDonald's success, was a 52-year old malt machine salesman in 1954 when he first visited the hamburger restaurant run by Richard and Maurice McDonald in San Bernardino, California. The highly streamlined operation featured a limited menu of hamburgers, fries, shakes, soft drinks, and apple pie. The absence of any frills and the highly efficient organization of the kitchen accounted for such savings that the brothers were able to reduce the price of a hamburger from 30 cents to 15 cents. Kroc began franchising the brothers' formula on their behalf, opening his first McDonald's in Des Plaines, Illinois, in April 1955. It proved a runaway success and became the foundation of the McDonald's empire, which grew slowly at first, but later at breakneck speed. In 1961, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. The following year, he introduced the golden arches as the official corporate logo. McDonald's went public in 1965.
From the outset, the company set itself apart from other franchised restaurants by owning a large proportion of the real estate on which its franchised restaurants are located and holding the leases on virtually all the rest. It selects and develops these sites, for which it later charges the franchisee rent. The upshot is that, although McDonald's invests far more capital per unit in its franchises, its returns are much higher. About 80 percent of McDonald's restaurants are franchised; the remainder are controlled by the parent company. All of the restaurants are serviced by independent suppliers.
McDonald's extraordinary success has been due in no small part to its willingness to be a trendsetter: it was the first fast-food restaurant to offer a breakfast menu (1973); to provide customers with a list of its product ingredients (1986); and to respond to consumers' environmental concerns with the scrapping of its Styrofoam sandwich boxes and the introduction of more environmentally-friendly packaging. It was also first to penetrate the Iron Curtain before the fall of the communist government, opening a restaurant in Moscow in 1990. In the mid-1990s, the company was one of thirty that made up the Dow Jones Industrial Index.
In 2003, McDonald's had more than 30,000 restaurants in more than 120 countries. The company opens a new restaurant every 5 hours of every day, and 8 percent of the American population visits a McDonald's every day. Although national sales growth has slowed from a high of more than 20 percent in the 1970s to just over 10 percent annually, overseas growth remains at more than 20 percent. In an attempt to retain its share of the market, management is giving franchisees more latitude to experiment with decor and menu items. It is also attempting to bolster its position through a "made for you" preparation program which replaced its Deluxe line in 1998.
In terms of sales, Burger King is the second largest restaurant chain in the United States. In 2002, sales were $1.7 billion. Throughout the 1980s, Burger King, then under the management of Pillsbury, suffered the consequences of high management turnover and a number of failed advertising campaigns. Burger King came under new ownership in January 1989, when it was bought by Grand Metropolitan PLC, a British company. By 1999, Burger King served nearly 1.6 billion Whoppers a year and had more than 14 million customers daily. The company had 11,500 stores in operation in all 50 states and in 60 other countries.
Three of the nation's top six restaurant chains—Pizza Hut, KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken), and Taco Bell Corp.—are owned by YUM! Corp. (formerly TRICON Global Restaurants Inc.). Sales in 2002 were $7.75 billion, and the company operated 33,000 stores in more than 100 countries in 2003. Pizza Hut is the largest pizza chain in the world, and KFC is the world's biggest fried chicken chain, while Taco Bell is the leading Mexican food chain in the United States.
Other major industry players include Wendy's, the nation's third largest chain of hamburger restaurants, with nearly 6,300 units worldwide and sales of $2.7 billion in 2002; Hardee's, owned by CKE Restaurants, with 2002 sales of $1.36 billion; and Dominos Pizza, with sales of $1.28 billion in 2002 from its 7,200 units in the United States and 50 countries. Among non-fast food restaurants, the two Darden Restaurants chains—Red Lobster and Olive Garden—are the largest in the United States. The company posted revenues of $4.37 billion in 2002.
The eating and drinking places industry is the largest employer in the U.S. retail business and provided 11.7 million jobs in 2002. Fifty-eight percent of those employed in this sector are women, 12 percent are African American, and 18 percent are Hispanic. Although 16-to-24 year olds are this industry's main target, in recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of older workers, especially retirees, as operators adjust to a labor shortage. Restaurants are also reacting to the labor shortage by attempting to improve efficiency and productivity and by cutting back on counter service and increasing drive-thrus. According to the National Restaurant Association, finding qualified and motivated employees is an ongoing concern for restaurateurs.
The National Restaurant Association reported that in 1999, "the competition for labor is intense, with restaurant operators competing against one another as well as other retail and service businesses for qualified workers. Top-notch talent can take their pick of offers and frequently change jobs." The Association also noted that "research found that in 1998 executive chefs received a median salary of $40,000, plus a median bonus of $4,000; general managers and unit managers earned median salaries of $48,000 plus a $7,000 bonus, and $32,500 plus a $4,000 bonus, respectively. The research also shows that the industry offers plenty of opportunities for advancement, with three out of five salaried employees having started as hourly workers."
Due to the labor shortage, the late 1990s were also a period of rising wages for workers in the eating place industry. Many restaurants tried to lure workers by offering competitive wages. In 2001, wages and benefits for full-service restaurants topped out at $49 billion, while fast-food paid out $35 billion. In addition to the labor shortage, the industry is also beset by chronic high employee turnover. A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association concluded that unless more permanent employees came to work in the industry, high worker turnover would continue. A Department of Labor study added that "The problem of labor turnover may be diminished by competitive pressure to reduce costs through greater use of offsite food preparation firms. Labor turnover has also been lowered by firms that offer employees improved training and occupational advancement opportunities. In addition, some firms are increasing wages and benefits to attract workers."
Eating establishments are one of North America's most successful exports. McDonald's, the chain with the largest foreign presence, had more than 12,000 outlets distributed throughout more than 117 countries in 1999, accounting for 60 percent of its total worldwide sales. Ninety percent of the new store openings planned for 1999 and 2000 were overseas. Nearly all of the industry leaders have a formidable overseas presence. Restaurants such as Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, and Wendy's gained a significant foothold in Western Europe and the emerging eastern European markets during the late 1990s. TRICON had operations in more than 100 countries in 1999, Burger King operated in more than 55 countries, Darden Restaurants had operations in Japan and Canada, and Domino's Pizza is found in more than 60 countries.
According to Market Share Reporter, 27 of the 30 top leading international restaurant chains in number of units are American, a clear indicator that the American presence overseas is formidable. The North American Free Trade Agreement increased investment opportunities for U.S. restaurant companies and also increased competition in the industry, as Canadian and Mexican chains began to penetrate the U.S. market.
The majority of restaurant chains in the United States are owned by American citizens, although the number of ethnic restaurants operated by immigrants is increasing. Overseas, the fast-food restaurants with the strongest foreign presence are generally operated by natives of the countries in which they are situated under a franchising agreement, although the parent companies retain ownership of a percentage of the foreign units.
Technological change is sweeping the industry, most profoundly in the area of computerization, but also in the form of devices to facilitate and speed food preparation and service. According to the National Restaurant Association, "technology is playing an increasingly important role in restaurant operations. Operators are investing in technology to increase efficiency and productivity as well as improve customer service." The association also conducted a survey in which a large number of respondents were planning on increasing technology expenditures from 1998.
The most common dedicated computer systems used in the business in the late 1990s were programmed to transmit information from point-of-order taking to the kitchen and on to a microcomputer used by management. An electronic cash register/point of sale (ECR/POS) system transmitted customer orders to the kitchen where they were either printed out or displayed on a video display unit. The major input device in the system was a keyboard or touch screen unit, part of which was preprogrammed by the manufacturer, part of which could be programmed at the restaurant in line with its specific needs. Hand-held terminals were also in use, enabling waitpersons to key their orders at the table. Display screens were also available that allowed waitpersons to monitor the progress of their orders. Printers in the kitchen issued meal checks. The data was also conveyed to a central microcomputer which used it to keep tabs on operations and to control inventory. A number of independent ECR/POS units could be networked using a powerful microcomputer.
As well as making for smoother restaurant operation, computers produced reports and maintained files for many stores in the late 1990s. For example, says the Department of Labor report: "Menu item files are used to monitor keyboard operations and make changes in items or prices. A labor file can produce numerous reports, including hours worked and different wage rates for each employee who may work at several different kinds of jobs during a pay period." Computers are especially useful in inventory control.
Large restaurant chains have found the new super microcomputers useful for monitoring their various branches. Time-consuming daily or weekly polls of each outlet's business can be replaced by a direct hookup that transmits the information automatically. These innovations save time, increase efficiency, and eliminate errors.
Despite these advances, compared with some other major retailing industries, the eating place sector of the food service industry remains relatively undercomputerized. However, 7 out of 10 table service restaurant operators that have computer access utilize the Internet and use e-mail. Large national chains also have comprehensive Web sites used to communicate with consumers.
Apart from computers, technology is infiltrating the restaurant business in the form of food preparation devices such as microwave ovens, automatic dishwashers, food processors, automatic beverage dispensers, and other automated equipment. A new form of vacuum cooking called "sous vide" is generating a good deal of interest. Although it saves on labor costs and increases efficiency, the substantial investment in special equipment that it requires, as well as the exacting safety standards that need to be observed, was expected to slow its diffusion through the industry at least until the end of the 1990s, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Technological advancements were not confined to the kitchen in the late 1990s. A vibrating paging system, for example, which costs about $5,000 and obviates the need to shout to a waiter when food is ready, was reporting great success in the late 1990s. These were also used to alert customers when their table was available.
Research has also shown that for fast-food restaurants eager to increase the volume and turnover of their drive-thrus trade, double drive-thrus are extremely successful. Having one window for ordering and paying and another for food pickup minimizes the period of stopping during assembly of orders. Fast-food restaurants operating drive-thrus also use wireless, remote control headsets worn by staff to cut back on background noise and reduce errors in order taking and are experimenting with computerized keyboards which allow customers to key in their orders; video systems; and other time saving and efficiency building devices. Restaurants on the West Coast are trying out debit cards, specially coded automatic teller machine cards that are 8 to 15 seconds faster than cash transactions.
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