Restaurant statistics have been on a rollercoaster since 2020. Every few months, new surveys and reports are released as restaurant-supporting businesses attempt to predict what the days and months ahead have in store for the industry.
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We’ve compiled 45 of the most revealing restaurant industry statistics for 2023 and combined them with our expert analysis to help you stay ahead of the curve. 2023 is poised to be a year of considerable growth in the restaurant industry.
- Consumers love local: A bright spot for small restaurants—63% of diners seek out small, independent restaurants over national chains.
- Focus on food quality (and location … and service): 68% of customers rate food quality as their highest priority when dining in at a restaurant. But nearly as many (66%) value location and customer service (64%).
- Industry recovery has evolved to (slow) growth: Restaurant sales, job growth, and overall industry growth have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
- Tech is alleviating staffing stress: Customers and operators alike love restaurant technology. 61% of customers prefer to order on-site from self-service kiosks. And 57% of restaurant owners claim that restaurant tech is what helped them survive the past two years.
- Employees are more important than ever: Not only is staffing still an issue (most restaurants are currently understaffed by two to four employees), but 47% of customers prefer to spend their money in an “employee-centric” restaurant. So, treat your staff well and make sure customers know about it.
Restaurant Sales Statistics
1. The food service industry is forecast to reach $997 billion in sales in 2023
The National Restaurant Association forecasts that restaurant sales will reach $997 billion in 2023, an increase of nearly 11% over 2022 and up from $789 billion in the chaotic pandemic year of 2021 (which was itself a 20% increase over 2020). The industry has shifted from recovery mode and is back on the growth trajectory it was on in 2019. Though the growth curve is slightly shallower than pre-pandemic projections, it is undeniably there, giving operators that survived the COVID-19 years a chance to catch their breath.
2. Sales at bars and restaurants jumped 7.2% in January 2023—the most significant increase in 22 months
Overall, restaurant receipts were also up 25% between January 2022 and January 2023—about four times the inflation rate in the same span. Overall, inflation influenced the cost of restaurant supplies. Still, unlike the home shopper who experiences inflation at the grocery store, restaurants must also deal with the costs of rapid wage increases in their industry. So, while top-line sales look promising, there are more costs below the surface; those sales didn’t necessarily flow through to restaurants’ bottom lines.
3. Overall menu prices rose by 8.6% between April 2022 and April 2023
According to research by the National Restaurant Association, menu prices increased by 8.6% in restaurants between April 2022 and April 2023 (the most recent month for which data is available). April 2023 was the ninth consecutive month to show year-over-year increases of at least 8% for restaurant prices. Higher prices are one of the reasons we are seeing higher sales numbers.
That restaurant prices have been growing faster than grocery prices for the first time since mid-2021 reveals the tension below the higher sales figures. The higher costs could deflate restaurant patronage. But food-away-from-home prices have grown more rapidly than food-at-home rates since around 2009, so this shift is a return to normal in some ways.
4. Restaurant menu prices doubled between 2018 and 2023
A study by restaurant POS stalwart Toast found that a Valentine’s Day dinner for two at a full-service restaurant in 2023 cost an average of $121 plus tax, while the average for the same meal in 2018 was $69. Five years is a short window for such a giant leap, and it reflects the volatility of the past five years. While prices have increased considerably, consumers have not (yet) curbed their restaurant attendance.
Despite the well-publicized headlines about higher prices, 74% of US adults planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2023 by dining in or ordering takeout from a restaurant.
5. The National Restaurant Association Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) is 100.9, indicating industry expansion
The NRA’s RPI is a monthly composite index that tracks the health of the US restaurant industry based on comparing same-store sales and customer traffic, among other industry indicators.
The current 100.9 RPI is from April 2023 (the most recent date for which data is available) and is lower than March 2023’s 101.7. However, any number over 100 indicates a period of growth for the restaurant industry. So, while the numbers appear muted, they still indicate recovery and an industry returning to a typical growth pattern after years of uncertainty.
6. Thai, Chinese, and Southern cuisine are dethroning pizza as the most popular cuisine in many US cities
Pizza has long been America’s favorite food. But recent analysis from Toast shows that Thai, Chinese, and Southern cuisine are becoming the most beloved foods in many US cities from Salt Lake City to Cleveland.
7. In 2022, 44% of customers bought products outside of standard menu fare at a restaurant
Many restaurants expanded their non-perishable offerings in the scramble to remain profitable through the lean pandemic years. A report by payments and POS brand Square found that, in 2022, customers were still supporting this shift, with 44% of customers purchasing non-food and beverage items—such as packaged products—from their favorite eateries. Square further predicts that this number will increase to 54% in 2023.
8. The number of restaurants adding non-food and beverage items to their product line is expected to jump to 88% in 2023
This is a significant increase from 2022, when around 50% of restaurant owners added non-food and beverage products or services to their businesses. Fire up your TikTok; this is a certifiable trend. If you’re stumped about how to become part of the 88%, consider adding shelf-stable ingredients and small gourmet grocery items, offering cooking classes, gift baskets, or selling branded merchandise like T-shirts and hats.
9. The average restaurant’s digital sales account for 25% of overall revenue
According to research by restaurant technology brand Qu, digital (online and mobile app) sales have shown to have staying power. Most restaurants see about 25% of their sales come from digital channels, though brands that bet big on digital early on can see sales as high as 50%. Digital sales are expected to grow steadily through 2023, with restaurants likely seeing digital become 33% of their overall sales mix.
One of the biggest pain points to increasing your off-premise sales is order inaccuracies and delivering an inconsistent customer experience. More than two-thirds of customers cited those two factors as having the most significant impact on their online ordering experience.
Restaurant Employment Statistics
10. The food service industry workforce is projected to grow by 500,000 jobs, for total industry employment of 15.5 million by the end of 2023
The National Restaurant Association projects that the restaurant industry will employ 15.5 million people by the end of 2023. This figure is an increase of 200,000 over the pre-pandemic 2019 workforce of 15.3 million and only 0.4% lower than the staffing peak of February 2020. May 2023 was the 29th consecutive month of employment growth in the restaurant industry.
11. 55% of restaurant owners are focused on employee retention in 2023
While the industry is adding jobs quickly, those jobs are only sometimes kept long term. The industry is still experiencing a high rate of staffing churn. From 2021 to 2022, the average restaurant employee only held their job 110 days. So, more than half of independent restaurant owners (55%) are focused on retaining the employees they have.
This is smart, considering that replacing a front-line restaurant employee can cost more than $5,000, according to the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.
12. Restaurants are operating with 1.7 to 3.7 fewer hourly employees than in 2019
Most restaurants are currently understaffed by about two to four employees. Research by Black Box Intelligence found that, on average, quick-service restaurants are down by 1.7 employees, while full-service restaurants are running with 3.7 fewer hourly employees per location, compared to 2019.
Understaffing was a problem for restaurants before the pandemic; in 2018, 37% of restaurants already complained of understaffing. But with 52% of restaurant workers who left their jobs in 2021 citing burnout as the main cause, keeping a restaurant staffed can feel like running an endless hamster wheel. Operating with chronically low staff levels leads to a vicious cycle of staff burnout, turnover, and even worse, understaffing.
13. In 2022, restaurant turnover was 14% to 24% higher than in 2019
The turnover rate increase in 2022 varied by restaurant type, with quick-service restaurants seeing closer to a 24% increase and full-service restaurants seeing a 14% jump. To slow the progression, restaurant owners responded by raising wages.
Between 2020 and 2023, restaurant wages rose faster than other industries. The wage peak was in March 2022, when quick-service restaurant workers saw a 19% increase from the previous year, and some full-service restaurant staff saw a 10% increase. Though with the long tail of the pandemic ebbing and the Fed taking steps to address inflation, restaurant wages should stabilize, incentivizing workers to stick with the jobs they have in 2023, and giving restaurant employers some breathing room.
14. Employment for food and beverage workers is projected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a return to form for the restaurant labor force. Before the disruption of the pandemic, the restaurant industry was a job growth machine, increasing its labor force by 10% to 11% most years. Many new vacancies—about 955,100 every year—are expected to come from seasoned hospitality workers retiring or switching to a new career field. So training a new generation of hospitality professionals will be an industrywide effort.
15. The median hourly wage for food and beverage serving and related workers is $12.49
According to data compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current median wage for hourly restaurant workers is $12.49. The BLS data shows that the lowest-earning restaurant workers earned less than $8.80 per hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $16.40. The annual median wage for restaurant workers was $25,980.
These figures are from May 2021 (the most recent date for which data is available) and show a 15% increase over 2018 levels. The rates are likely higher in 2023 as restaurants have raised wages to retain staff since 2021.
16. The food and beverage industry employs more 16- to 19-year-olds than any other employment sector
Many Americans’ first jobs are in the restaurant industry. It’s no surprise that the industry employs more 16- to 19-year-olds than any other sector. The flexible hours and night and weekend work particularly appeal to students who need their days free to attend classes.
17. The restaurant industry employs a higher proportion of minority managers than any other economic sector, with 4 in 10 restaurant managers identifying as minorities
Nearly half of restaurant managers identify as minorities, making the restaurant industry one of the most diverse employers in the country. Restaurants in the US also showcase some of the most diverse cuisines in the world, which is at least one reason the food and beverage industry appeals to workers of many different backgrounds.
Restaurant Issues & Outlook Statistics
18. 47% of restaurant operators expect competition to be more intense in 2023 than in 2022
A National Restaurant Association poll found that nearly half of restaurant operators anticipate a more competitive year in 2023. The pandemic years whittled down the competition with many restaurants closing, but it also ignited a customer desire for convenience. Restaurants face a pivotal moment, with rising food and wage costs conflicting with expanding restaurant technology to meet customer expectations.
Typically, competitive years in the industry feed innovation. We expect small eateries to spend 2023 leaning into innovative business models and advanced tech in a big way.
19. Lunch sales are growing by 3% and declining by 23% (depending on where you look)
Internal research by POS brand Toast shows a lunch conundrum, with sales decreasing in some regions while growing in others. The business lunch has long been a staple in major metro areas like New York and Chicago. But with remote becoming a more permanent part of the overall employment landscape, those traditional lunch spots are seeing sales decreases of 15% to 23%. At the same time, smaller markets like Kansas City and Charleston are increasing lunch sales by 2% to 3%.
Restaurants in major markets would be smart to invest in takeout and delivery-optimized menus to appeal to remote workers. While restaurants in smaller cities should leverage loyalty to turn new lunch diners into regulars.
20. 92% of operators say the cost of food is a significant issue
An overwhelming majority of restaurant owners—92%—told the National Restaurant Association that the cost of food in 2023 was a “significant issue” for their business. Any price fluctuation can be stressful in an industry notorious for tight margins. Combine cost increases with consumers attempting to belt-tighten, and restaurant owners would naturally feel the pinch.
But restaurant operators can take heart. Customers are still dining out; they are just trading down to less costly restaurants.
21. Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) saw a 3% increase in customer traffic in 2023, while full-service traffic has declined by 2%
Yet another data point shows the customer trade-off; after feeling stifled by dining restrictions for years, customers still want to dine out. They just don’t want to break the bank to do it. While quick-service restaurants are enjoying a 3% uptick in business, full-service restaurants are seeing a decline by almost the same amount (2%).
But even a cursory look at those numbers reveals a bright spot—overall restaurant traffic is still up (albeit slightly). In fact, 51% of restaurant owners reported higher customer traffic in February 2023.
Quick-service restaurants should continue to tout their low price point to customers. Full-service restaurants should create price-conscious specials or seasonal menus and plaster their social media channels with their inflation-busting seasonal offerings.
22. QSR breakfast visits are up by 10%, while lunch and dinner visits have declined by 1% to 3%
Just as customers seek out lower-priced restaurants, they also seek out lower-priced dayparts. Breakfast is getting a 10% traffic boost, while lunch visits have declined by 1% and dinner by 3%. When you look at full-service restaurants, the dinner decline is an even more dramatic -13%.
Restaurants seeing an influx of breakfast guests should add a loyalty program to encourage repeat visits and future visits at higher price point meal times. Full-service restaurants that are not traditionally open for breakfast should test a grab-and-go breakfast or lunch option to see if a lower price point offering can drive new sales.
23. 53% of restaurant operators say enhancing service is a primary goal for 2023
Many restaurant owners and managers see service as the fastest way to customer’s hearts. More than half (53%) say improving customer service is their major goal this year.
Those operators are likely to see a good return on their investment. According to research by Black Box Intelligence, restaurants with positive customer reviews for service see six times more traffic than competitors and have 1.5 times higher sales growth over four years. Investing in customer service is definitely a long-term strategy, but it is a smart move if you want your restaurant to have longevity.
24. 46% of restaurant operators want to reduce operational costs
Reducing costs while growing sales is the fastest way to restaurant profitability. So it makes sense that 46% of restaurant operators are focused on reducing operational costs in 2023. One of the most popular ways to reduce operating costs is by adding smart technology to automate tedious tasks.
This brings us to our next section of restaurant technology statistics.
Restaurant Technology Statistics
25. 57% of restaurant operators sat that the new technology they adopted since 2020 was critical to their business’ survival
In a survey by POS brand Lightspeed, 57% of respondents said that their restaurant technology helped their business survive. In the same survey, restaurant operators revealed the most impactful tech they used.
- 60% of respondents said that inventory data was essential to them.
- 42% used inventory tools to improve food costing and reduce waste.
- 21% leveraged in-house online ordering to reduce third-party commissions.
- 12% relied on scheduling software to speed up the employee scheduling process.
26. 31% of restaurant operators hope automation will free them to focus on more crucial tasks
According to research by payments and POS brand Square, one in three restaurant operators wants restaurant technology to free them from tedious tasks so they can focus on more crucial things for their business. While independent restaurants may not be able to employ full-scale AI drive-thru attendants, they can save administrative time by automating time-consuming tasks like scheduling employees, reconciling invoices, and placing vendor orders.
27. 25% of restaurant owners say they plan to invest in cloud POS technology in 2023
One in four restaurant owners plans to invest in a cloud POS system in 2023. This number might seem small, but it would likely be higher if more restaurants hadn’t already invested in POS technology during the pandemic years of 2021 and 2022.
28. 61% of restaurants plan to continue offering food delivery directly through their restaurant
Square’s research shows that 61% of restaurants plan to stick with in-house delivery tools. This is a 12% increase from 2022. This plan plays directly into customer preferences. Most customers prefer to place their delivery orders directly with independent restaurants; they are less prone to error and have fewer fees than third-party services.
29. 70% of restaurant operators will explore AI and Machine Learning tools in 2023
A full 70% of restaurant operators say they’ll use 2023 to examine ways AI and machine learning can improve efficiency, automate processes, and boost profitability. That is a massive leap from 2022, when only 13% of operators mentioned AI/ML as a top priority. Robotics and Voice technology are other innovations that many restaurant owners are considering. If you live in a college town or a major metropolitan area, you’ve likely already met a friendly delivery robot.
30. 38% of diners place takeout orders directly through a restaurant’s website
But—according to research by TouchBistro—nearly as many (35%) still place takeout orders over the phone (so don’t rip out your phone lines just yet). Only 15% of customers order via third-party apps like UberEats.
Though when it comes to third-party platforms, DoorDash is the clear winner for US diners—68% of consumers list DoorDash as their preferred platform (versus 56% for Uber Eats and 36% for Grubhub). Savvy restaurant owners who offer online ordering should add a website revamp to their 2023 tech plans to make ordering even easier for customers.
31. 61% of diners prefer to use a self-service kiosk to order food at fast-food restaurants
Customers and restaurant operators agree about automation. Nearly two-thirds of customers prefer to place quick-service orders via a kiosk. Customers and self-service are a match made in heaven for restaurant operators. Since 2018, studies have shown that customers order 15% to 30% more from kiosks and are more responsive to upsells offered by a self-service kiosk.
You don’t need a massive budget to get into the kiosk game. See our ranking of the best self-service kiosks for free and low-cost options.
32. 41% of millennials are part of a restaurant loyalty program
Millennials are jumping on the loyalty train, with 41% reporting that they participate in a restaurant loyalty program. This is great news for independent restaurants since millennials are projected to overtake the Baby Boomers as the largest generational cohort in the early 2030s. Their buying power will determine trends into the mid-century. Restaurant owners can lock down their loyalty now by adding loyalty and rewards software to their restaurant tech stack.
33. 71% of diners say online and on-premise restaurant technology improves their guest experience
Restaurant customers like technology, with the overwhelming majority (71%) saying it improves their online and in-store restaurant experience. So, you can feel confident that user-friendly solutions like self-service kiosks or tap-to-pay terminals will be worthwhile additions to your business.
But be mindful with your tech rollout—about 30% of diners are confused by new tech or even might be a little tech-phobic. Ensure you communicate alternatives for traditional, face-to-face service options when you update your restaurant tech so you don’t lose these less tech-reliant customers.
Restaurant Consumer Preference Statistics
34. 28 of Yelp’s 50 most loved brands of 2023 are restaurants
Popular customer review site Yelp recently released its ranking of the 50 most loved brands of 2023. The list is based on customer responses on the site, and more than half of the current list is restaurants. Though Yelp showcases reviews for everything from retail stores to dentist’s offices, the food and beverage share of the 50 best list is a strong indicator of customer passion for their favorite eateries.
35. 63% of diners prefer local independent restaurants to chains and franchises
Research by TouchBistro found that a staggering 63% of customers seek out indie restaurants over chains. And while millenials drive weekly dining and social media marketing trends, this local focus is driven by Baby Boomers. Broken down by generational cohort, 69% of Baby Boomers prefer local restaurants, while 65% of Gen X’ers, 55% of millenials, and only 40% of Gen Z’rs do.
This generational flip could be due to overall cost. Local, independent restaurants tend to be pricier than chains. And Baby Boomers and Gen X are more financially established than their younger counterparts.
36. 44% of diners dine out at least once per week
According to TouchBistro, 44% of customers reported dining out once or more per week in 2023. This traffic is driven largely by Gen Z (62%) and millennial (57%) diners. Gen X’s are close to the average, with 48% reporting dining out once a week. But you could be wasting marketing dollars attempting to convert Baby Boomers into regulars; only 36% of Baby Boomers say they dine out weekly.
37. 84% of consumers consider going out to a restaurant with family and friends a better use of their leisure time than cooking for themselves
In 2020, self-care was all about baking bread. But times have changed in a few short years. The 2023 consumer is focused on reconnecting with friends and family. Eight out of 10 consumers prefer to spend leisure time dining out with family and friends rather than cooking an ambitious meal (and washing a mountain of dishes).
38. 68% of dine-in customers say food quality is the most important factor when making a restaurant choice
Restaurant POS provider TouchBistro polled 2,600 diners about their restaurant preferences (an email is required to download the full report). A full 68% of customers polled said food quality was the biggest factor they considered when choosing a restaurant. That’s a big number. But food quality practically ties for first place, with location (66%) and customer service (64%) among customer priorities.
Location means convenience to customers. While you can improve food quality and customer service, location is a one-time decision. Take the time before you open your restaurant to ensure that you choose a location with a good customer base, either in a well-populated neighborhood, near a major thoroughfare, or in a busy business district.
39. 47% think employee-centric restaurant operations as more deserving of their trust
The headlines about worker burnout, lack of sick days, and healthcare in the restaurant industry have impacted consumers. A recent study by consulting company Qualtrics found that 47% of customers perceive “employee-centric” restaurants as more trustworthy. Customer treatment is still paramount (66% of those polled said customer treatment was the most important). Still, it is important to remember that customers consider more than simply what is on your menu and your Instagram when choosing a restaurant.
You can generate positive customer sentiment by treating your staff well. And make sure you communicate your staff benefits across your marketing channels—from your website through your social media channels—to ensure customers and potential employees get the message.
40. 88% of consumers say they’d understand if their favorite local restaurant raised prices due to inflation
Research from Square shows a bright spot for independent restaurants—most diners understand your price increases. But don’t take advantage of their kindness; 55% of the customers surveyed said they would understand a 1% to 10% increase. Be judicious in your increases, and be prepared to back up your position when asked. Most customers understand higher prices if you explain why the price hike is necessary.
41. 35% of consumers prefer to pick up their takeout orders
One in three customers who place takeout orders prefer to pick up these orders themselves in your restaurant, possibly to avoid delivery driver tampering or to save on delivery fees. Either way, in-store pickup is better for preserving your food quality and saves on the restaurant’s portion of delivery fees.
42. 1 in 5 customers (21%) want a dedicated drive-thru for mobile orders
When it comes to streamlining restaurant operations, your customers have a great suggestion; 21% of them want to pick up their mobile order via a dedicated drive-thru window. All it takes is a small construction budget and a little negotiating with your landlord.
43. 60% of millennials start their search for a restaurant just an hour before they visit
There are nearly 75 million people in the Millennial generational cohort, and they drive a lot of restaurant sales. This generation came of age with the internet, and 60% of them say they look for restaurants online, pretty much right before they pay a visit. Ensure your website and social media channels (including mentions) are enticing and showcase your most current information.
44. 38% of TikTok users have patronized a restaurant after seeing it on the platform
TikTok has become a massive force in the food world. Beyond providing a home for viral recipes, the platform enables would-be customers to get a sense of your establishment before visiting. TikTok clips can showcase food, ambiance, and even the sounds customers might experience. More than a third of TikTok users have patronized a restaurant they discovered on TikTok. If the platform is not part of your social media strategy, you should add it in 2023.
45. 60% of consumers prefer email communication from restaurants
When communicating with your customers, 60% would rather get an email than a text message. And internal POS data suggests that 39% of your restaurant marketing emails actually get opened. So while text message reservations and takeout confirmations are convenient, email is the better way to announce your Mother’s Day Brunch menu or happy hour promotions.
Restaurant Industry Statistics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The restaurant industry is currently experiencing growth after the contracting years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The growth rate (around 1%) is currently lower than in 2019 (around 4%), but the incline has been steady since the COVID-19 pandemic resolved.
Studies by multiple organizations, from the National Restaurant Association to data and analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet, have calculated a restaurant failure rate of about 30% in the first year of a restaurant’s operation. So, about one in three new restaurants doesn’t make it past the first year in operation. This is higher than the general failure rate for US small businesses, which is around 20% (or one in five).
The biggest reasons restaurants fail are economic factors (like recessions, economic downturns, and shut-downs as experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic) and unfavorable legislation that increases operational costs. I’ve personally seen many restaurants close due to unfavorable lease terms or an inability to renew a lease, and nearly as many close because the owners discovered they lacked the passion necessary to keep the business running.
The best way to ensure that your restaurant doesn’t become one of these statistics is to do your due diligence before opening. Get a business attorney to review your lease and negotiate favorable terms. Ensure you have a contingency fund of at least six months of operating expenses (a year’s worth is even better) to help weather unexpected storms. Also, try to work in a restaurant for at least six months before opening your establishment to ensure the business is a fit.
The good news is that most restaurants succeed. More than half of independent restaurants opened in the United States remain open for at least three years. Your restaurant will succeed if you plan well, have enough operating capital, and are passionate about the food and beverage business.
The restaurant statistics for 2023 show a positive trajectory for a complicated industry. While sales and growth are on an upward trend, so are product costs and wages. But consumers say they are prepared to help their favorite independent restaurants succeed, and they’ll even accept some increased menu prices if necessary. Make sure your restaurant marketing efforts showcase the value your restaurant offers and what differentiates you from chains and franchises. Focusing on food quality and the ways you support employees are good places to start.