The 2023 Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) took place recently in Phoenix over April 16th-19th. The conference featured over 100 speakers from across the restaurant industry and was attended by over 1,350 participants from major restaurant brands. These participants represent over 300,000 restaurant locations across the country, which make up an astonishing 50% of the U.S. restaurant market! I was in the crowd as a representative of Force4Good and had a fantastic time listening, learning, and connecting with passionate restaurateurs and leaders. These are my major takeaways from this year’s RLC.
Trends and statistics:
- The food service industry is expected to reach $1 trillion in 2023, with full-service restaurants making up $272 billion, limited-service restaurants making up $381 billion, and other services such as hospitals, stadiums, and cafeterias making up a combined $364 billion.
- Though customers are less satisfied with pickup and delivery in 2023 than they were in 2020, pickup and delivery now represents 17% of restaurant sales (11% pickup, 6% delivery). Stats are also reflecting that younger generations will pay for the convenience these options provide.
- Though menu pricing is increasing slower than grocery prices, customers are reducing their frequency of restaurant visits due to inflation and are opting for less expensive menu items and seeking deals. 84% of customers are eating out less than in 2022.
- As a result, personalized marketing and loyalty programs are becoming more important to attract and retain customers – 65% of business comes from existing loyal customers. In fact, 57% of customers are more likely to visit a restaurant if it has a loyalty program.
- Breakfast sales are on the rise. Some speculate this comes as a result of more people working from home and having increased flexibility in their schedules. Another hypothesis is that breakfast items often cost less than dinner – coupled with inflation and rising prices, people are simply eating out for breakfast more often than dinner.
- The demand for plant-based food is still growing. André Vener, co-founder of Dog Haus, reports plant-based food makes up 8% of their sales.
- The fast-casual segment grew 13% YOY, with the fastest-growing chains among the top 500 including Dave’s Hot Chicken (156% growth), Crumbl (123% growth), Cava (60% growth), and Dave & Buster’s (50% growth).
- Sustainability and social responsibility are becoming increasingly important to customers. As brands take steps to become more sustainable and socially responsible, customers are responding positively. Looking to get your restaurant involved in helping the community and making the world a better place? Force4Good is here to help – restaurant fundraisers are a proven strategy that build community, sales, and new customers.