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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach $566 billion in 2009, with the forecast projecting that while overall restaurant industry sales will increase in current dollars by 2.5 percent over 2008 figures, the numbers will translate to an inflation-adjusted decline of 1 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) 2009 Restaurant Industry Forecast released recently.

Despite the economic downturn, the association said the restaurant industry will remain a cornerstone of the economy, representing 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and employing 9 percent of the U.S. workforce, and restaurants will continue to adapt to the latest menu trends and consumer preferences.

"The restaurant industry is both innovative and resilient," stated Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO. "In the year ahead, the industry’s sales are projected to continue to increase, with a total economic impact that exceeds $1.5 trillion, yet at the same time, the industry is experiencing unprecedented challenges due to the economic recession and elevated food prices. Americans will continue to rely on restaurants as a key part of their lifestyle as the industry provides the food, value and service customers seek."

Sales at full-service restaurants are projected to reach $182.9 billion in 2009, an increase of 1 percent over 2008. Quick-service restaurants are projected to post sales of $163.8 billion in 2009, a gain of 4 percent over 2008. Eating-and-drinking places will see an increase in sales from 2008 of 2.2 percent, totaling $395 billion, the NRA reported.

Texas will post the fastest sales growth at 4 percent in 2009 ($35 billion), followed by Nevada at 3.5 percent ($5.2 billion); Colorado at 3.4 percent ($8.4 billion); New Mexico at 3.3 percent ($2.7 billion); and Arizona at 3.2 percent ($8.7 billion). The top states by restaurant sales volume in 2009 will be California at $56.2 billion; Texas at $35 billion; New York at $27.8 billion; Florida at $27 billion; and Illinois at $18.8 billion.

In terms of consumer and menu trends, NRA research shows Americans today are looking for restaurants that deliver value, convenience and healthier options. Surveys of restaurant operators, customers and chefs indicate that restaurateurs will sharpen their appeal in the coming year by reaching out to health-conscious guests, as well as to the growing number of diners who are interested in how and where their food was produced.

Among the top trends restaurateurs see for 2009 are an expanded focus on value, healthy options in kids’ meals, locally sourced items and green initiatives.
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