The full service restaurant market declined by 12,000 operators, or 3.8%, in 2011. Consumers were not as frugal with their dining dollars as the previous 2 years, but fine dining restaurants still struggled shrinking by 4.6% last year. The hardest hit cuisine, in the fine dining segment, was the "steak, seafood & fish" menu type. Fear not diners. Do not reach for that pint of "sadness" ice cream yet; things are not as bad as what we've seen in some previous years in fine dining. Chains such as Capital Grill, Morton's and Ruth's Chris are holding their own, but have a long road to recovery to be back to where they were in 2008.
Limited service restaurants were not immune to the downturn either, as they declined by 4,000 operators, or 1.3%, in 2011. It will come as no surprise to those in the industry that the independent restaurants were hurt the most. Limited service chains actually increased in 2011 by nearly 1%. Fast casual chains that boast a more fresh, and diverse menu continued to thrive. The news was not so joyful for fast casual's frozen LSR brethren; the smoothie, juice and frozen dessert menu types, had the largest decline at over 7.3% in 2011.
On the brighter side
It is not all doom and gloom. Things are not as bleak as they were for poor old Oliver Twist. There are some restaurants that diners got "some more" from in 2011. Meat and potatoes reigned supreme as "American traditional"
Results by State
The 2011 national restaurant executioner did not wield its deadly sword in a democratic fashion. Instead, Alaska's foodservice market was hit with haymakers decreasing by 7.9% during 2011, while several states such as North Dakota and New Hampshire seemed to bob and weave deftly enough to even see an increase in their own foodservice markets. Oddly enough, the great state of Nevada, the nation's leader in unemployment, had the highest percentage increase for a state's foodservice market increasing by almost 5.5% in 2011.
According to Cathy Kearns, General Manager at CHD Expert, "Even with a declining market, consumers still want their food good, and fast. Fast Casual chains are becoming more attractive to consumers, offering a higher quality food than quick service with a perception of being the healthier option. So they're getting food at a fair price without giving up an hour of their time."
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