Restaurants still suffer from low demand
Carryout and dine-in options at grocery chains like Whole Foods as well as at Costco and Target, which likely compete with restaurants, are adding to industry sales, Paul said. Technomic estimates that sales of prepared foods at supermarkets increased 3 percent, to $19 billion, and will grow another 3.5 percent in 2011. Those gains are outpacing the restaurant industry.
According to Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant consultancy, the industry is expected to post a 1.6 percent sales increase in 2011, essentially on higher prices, after eking out a 0.1 percent increase in 2010. Gains were driven by a strong second half of the year. Industry sales are still about 7 percent below 2007 levels, according to the group.According to market research firm NPD Group, high employment is problematic for the restaurant industry because it has been highest among 18- to 34-year-olds, a group that typically eats out more.