December 31/Healthcare Mergers, Acquisitions & Ventures Week -- Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach $566 billion in 2009, with the industry employing 13 million individuals in 945,000 restaurant-and-foodservice outlets nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2009 Restaurant Industry Forecast released. The forecast projects that while overall restaurant industry sales will increase in current dollars by 2.5% over 2008 figures, the numbers translate to an inflation-adjusted decline of 1.0%.

Despite the economic downturn, the industry will remain a cornerstone of the economy, representing 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product and employing 9% of the U.S. workforce, and restaurants will continue to adapt to the latest menu trends and consumer preferences.

"The restaurant industry is both innovative and resilient," said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the association. "In the year ahead, the industry's sales are projected to continue to increase, with a total economic impact that exceeds $1.5 trillion, yet at the same time, the industry is experiencing unprecedented challenges due to the economic recession and elevated food prices. Americans will continue to rely on restaurants as a key part of their lifestyle as the industry provides the food, value and service customers seek. Nearly half of consumers' food budget will be spent in restaurants, rewarding the continued responsiveness and innovation that our industry provides to budget-conscious Americans."

From the January 5, 2009, Prepared Foods e-Flash