Restaurateurs See Growth Opportunity Despite Cost Concerns

Over a third of restaurateurs expressed optimism about the economic landscape, according to the 2016 American Express Restaurant Trade Survey. Thirty-nine percent anticipate improving economic conditions and growth opportunities over the next six months, while another 32 percent of those polled expect their businesses to grow regardless of the economic climate.  Restaurateurs are projecting an average revenue growth of 33 percent in 2016.

Danielle Wallis
Danielle Wallis

“The results of our American Express Restaurant Trade Survey found that restaurateurs see real opportunities to grow their businesses,” Danielle Wallis, Vice President, Merchant Services-U.S. Industry Development, American Express, told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. “They are constantly looking for ways to innovate, whether it’s through adopting new technology to help them run their businesses, offering new menu items or trying other strategies. These are things that can help restaurateurs keep their existing customers coming back, and help them attract new customers. While the survey doesn’t explicitly measure why restaurant operators said they feel optimistic about the economy, the fact that they are constantly focused on identifying growth opportunities may help explain why they feel good about their prospects.”

Despite the optimistic outlook, the survey found a number of concerns restaurateurs are dealing with on a daily basis such as increasing costs, including rising rent and higher inventory costs.

“Of those restaurant operators who lease their restaurant space (39 percent), 74 percent said they have seen their rent increase between one and 30 percent in the last year,” said Wallis. “And almost two-thirds (64 percent) of restaurant operators who lease their space said they would possibly increase the price of their menu items because of rising rent costs.”

Wallis noted that 39 percent of restaurateurs surveyed have seen an 11 to 20 percent increase in food costs in the last three to five years.

“We’re seeing restaurant operators respond to this trend in a variety of ways. Some are being creative in their approach by developing new menu items or setting plans to do so in the future. They are also being strategic, looking at raising their menu prices as well as switching vendors and suppliers.”

The survey was released ahead of the The 27th annual American Express Restaurant Trade Program will take place from June 16-19 as part of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. This year’s program will feature three panels that offer insights from best-in-class culinary talent on topics including technology’s impact on the restaurant industry, the role mentors have played in chefs’ and restaurateurs’ development, and how the industry is adapting and responding to current economic trends and changing consumer tastes. Panelists include Andrew Zimmerman, Marcus Samuelsson, Christina Tosi and Maureen Cushing.

“It provides a forum for those in the industry to exchange innovative ideas, cement key relationships and identify best practices that can fuel the success of their businesses,” said Wallis.

The event will feature a discussion on the importance of the mentor relationship within the restaurant industry. Ninety-three percent of those restaurant operators that have a mentor said they experienced a positive business impact as a result of the relationship, according to the survey.

“As the American Express Restaurant Trade Survey found, mentors can be a valuable sounding board for restaurateurs,” said Wallis. “Having the opportunity to discuss ideas and gain perspective from others in the industry can help restaurateurs make informed decisions about their own businesses and avoid pitfalls that others have encountered.”