By Barry Klein
Next year will see a tug-of war between the economic situation and the burgeoning desires of consumers to eat out more often. It would be easy to predict a very good year ahead for restaurants if it wasn't for the uncertainty of whether people could afford one of the purchases they really want to make. Here's why:
- The number of choices among restaurants will continue to grow substantially and there are few experiences that match the fun of trying a new place to eat. That pleasure has been moving up on many people's priority list for the past couple of years.
- The growth in the number of establishments is dwarfed by the number of new or revitalized food selections that has become an almost dizzying array of "I have to taste that" choices.
- People have never been so interested in food. Celebrity chefs ... television programs ... exotic recipes ... old recipes that are new again ... unique places to buy, with displays of food varieties never seen before ... natural, organic, gluten free ... you can hardly keep up with the delightful discoveries. Time spent discussing food just keeps on growing, especially among those who are not in the food business.
- Food and restaurant dining has almost become this century's premier form of entertainment, and it is an integral portion of entertaining events, a companion to movies, shows, ball games, concerts, even watching TV. Tailgate parties with the grill pumping out burgers have become as important as the game itself.
It seems that the only thing that is keeping people from eating out even more often is whether or not they can afford it until the next payday. "Should I try the menu at the new bistro that just opened down the street, or make the car payment a few days late?" is a familiar debate for many people.
Since I often cast a skeptical eye on most subjects, here is an unusual prediction: 2013 will be a much better year for the restaurant industry than most people are expecting.
I see even further growth in preoccupation with food among consumers because it will continue to be an interesting, fun, non-threatening subject. People will find ways to discuss, experiment and dabble in the world of food, no matter what their financial situation.
Of course, major financial disasters such as significant unemployment and tax increases could change this picture considerably, but I believe the impact has to be quite substantial to mitigate the developing "foodie" interest and attention from consumers.
Barry Klein is best known for creating the Ronald McDonald character and led the "You Deserve A Break Today" advertising campaign for McDonald's. In his current occupation as a marketing consultant, Klein has developed business-building concepts, new products and more for Coca Cola, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, Cadillac, Ruby Tuesday, Friendly’s, Perkins, Pay Less Shoes and others. He has been a key contributor to such projects as Stuffed Crust Pizza for Pizza Hut, Prime Rib Subs and Torpedoes for Quiznos.
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