Contractors and technicians looking for a sector showing signs of growth may want to consider restaurants with their critical needs for HVACR.

Restaurant industry sales are projected to reach a record $426.1 billion in 2003, according to statistics released by the National Restaurant Association in its “2003 Restaurant Industry Forecast.”

“On an inflation-adjusted basis, restaurant industry sales are expected to increase 1.8 percent in 2003, which would represent the 12th consecutive year of real growth in the industry,” said the report. “On a typical day in 2003, the restaurant industry will post average sales of nearly $1.2 billion.”

Not only does this sector require commercial air conditioning and heating that has to be precisely tuned for customer comfort, it also needs ventilation for both customers out front and cooking equipment in the back, ice machines for the production of a variety of cubes, and a range of reach-in and walk-in freezers and coolers. Customer growth translates to increased wear and tear on mechanical equipment, requiring regular servicing or possibly replacements.

“The resilient restaurant industry continued to post real sales growth during the last two years, in spite of fragile consumer confidence and the national economy’s first recession in 10 years,” according to the report.

“In 2003, an improving economy and continued growth in disposable personal income will be the catalysts to propel the restaurant industry into another year of real growth.”

The projected 1.8 percent real increase in restaurant industry sales in 2003 represents “a modest improvement” from the 1.3 percent real gain in 2002. The gains are expected to lag behind the yearly gains from 1992 to 2000.

Growth In The Sector

For contractors wanting to zero in on the biggest growth segment of the sector, the report suggests that full-service restaurants will lead the way with a projected 4.8 percent growth. Quick-serve restaurants are expected to show 4.1 percent growth.

A survey of full-service restaurant operators found 60 percent expecting business to be better in 2003 than in 2002, 33 percent saying things will be the about the same, and the rest saying things may be slower.

In the quick-serve sector, 57 percent forecasted growth, 36 percent said things will stay the same, and the remainder expected sales to decline.

Just as contractors are concerned about qualified technicians, quick-service restaurant operators label their biggest challenge as recruiting and retaining good employees, with building and maintaining sales volume the second biggest challenge. The full-service sector said the economy will be the top challenge.

Publication date: 07/14/2003