The Restaurant Industry today
As of 2006, there were approximately 215,000 full-service restaurants and approximately 250,000 limited-service restaurants (fast food) in the United States for a population of 300 million people. The full service restaurants account for $298 billion and limited service accounting for $260 billion of food service revenue. Also, in 2006, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 523,965 food and drink businesses at the time.
In the end of 2008, there were 545,678 privately owned food service and drinking places across the United States (NAIC 722). About 46.7 percent of establishments in this industry are limited-service eating places, such as fast-food restaurants, cafeterias, and snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars; these establishments primarily serve patrons who order or select items and pay before eating. Full-service restaurants account for about 39.4 percent of establishments and cater to patrons who order, are served, and consume their food while seated, and then pay after eating. 13.9 percent correspond to special food services and drinking places that serve alcoholic beverages. In the first quarter of 2011 there were a total of 562,787 establishments that shows a three percent increase since 2008.
The average American spends around 20% of his/her income on meals away from home. 25 % of people eat out at least once a week.
The most common type of limited-service eating place is a franchised operation of a nationwide restaurant chain that sells fast food. Features that characterize these restaurants include a limited menu, the absence of waiters and waitresses, and emphasis on limited service. Menu selections usually offer limited variety and are prepared by workers with minimal cooking or food-handling skills. Food is typically served in disposable take-out containers that retain the food’s warmth, allowing restaurants to prepare orders in advance of customers’ requests. A growing number of fast-food restaurants provide drive-through and walk-up services.
Full-service restaurants typically offer several menu categories, including appetizers, entrees, salads, side dishes, desserts, and beverages, with varied choices within each category. Chefs and cooks prepare items to order, which may run from grilling a hamburger to composing a more complex and sophisticated menu item. Waiters and waitresses offer table service in comfortable surroundings. Patrons increasingly eat at mid-scale or family restaurants, typically run by a national chain. These restaurants usually offer efficient table service, and well-priced familiar menu items prepared by moderately skilled kitchen workers. By contrast, customers at upscale dining places tend to seek a nicer atmosphere with skillfully prepared cuisine and leisurely, professional service. While chains are an important segment of the restaurant market, many restaurants remain independently owned and locally operated.
By now, diners continue to express their preferences for fast, on-the-go menu choices, and restaurants of all types are responding. In addition to the typical fast-food restaurant that offers drive-thru service, many restaurants, including full-service restaurants, now routinely accept take-out orders, take food orders by fax or Internet, and offer more menu items in conveniently sized portions. To sustain a lively dining district and please local patrons, some restaurants offer limited delivery services, often through an independent company that serves many neighborhood restaurants.