The restaurant industry accounts for a whopping 10 percent of the entire U. S. workforce. With its 14.7 million employees nationwide, the sector is projected to add another 1.6 million jobs within the next 10 years, according to National Restaurant Association.
For Fabio Viviani, a celebrity chef, former Top Chef contestant, cook book author, and restaurateur, the annual NRA Show in Chicago is all about networking. “This is a business based on people, and in order to connect with people you have to be where they are,” Viviani says.
Employee turnover hurts. Not only does it cost restaurants an average of $5,864 to replace each employee, according to Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research, but it also strains restaurant operations when a team is short staffed.
A lot of industry and financial chatter seems to be coming to the same conclusion: 2018 is looking to be a lot like 2017 was for restaurants. Yes, the consumer price index remains strong, and disposable income appears stable (maybe even ticking up).
Though many hourly employees choose to work in foodservice because they need more flexible schedules than they can find in other fields, this same flexibility has also put strain on workers. Many common practices in restaurants, such as short notice of shifts, on-call scheduling, sending employees home when they are scheduled, and scheduling closing shifts followed by opening shifts, can make it difficult for employees to plan their budgets and schedule childcare or transportation, all of which can lead to increased stress.
Consumers have come to expect bold flavors and ethnically inspired dishes on virtually all menus, despite traditional concept or daypart distinctions. Yet while many consumers want options, some have been reluctant to try unfamiliar ethnic fare, as spending $15–$20 for an unknown meal makes it riskier to try.
As director of procurement for Red Lobster, Jennifer Keith knows that good supplier relationships are critical to a restaurant’s success. That’s why the casual seafood chain’s procurement team makes it a priority to attend the annual NRA Show in Chicago.
The kitchen is the backbone of any restaurant, and when it’s chaotic, so is the entire dining experience. Customers at Captain’s Quarters in Prospect, Kentucky, outside of Louisville, are treated in an idyllic waterfront dining experience thanks to the restaurant’s position on the bank of the Ohio River.
There is no question that breakfast is a consumer favorite. The once early morning meal is now an all-day staple throughout the industry, and even concepts that are only offering breakfast within its traditional daypart are seeing growth.
For Karen Williams, vice president of operations services at Applebee’s, the annual NRA Show in Chicago is an opportunity to see what the future of the restaurant industry holds.“The biggest reason I go to NRA Show is to get steeped in what’s new and emerging in the restaurant industry,” she says.