CHARLES M. PERKINS
The food service industry is big business today The National Restaurant Association projects total sales in 1999 to surpass $354 billion—a 4.6 percent increase over 1998. This will be the eighth consecutive year of real growth in an industry that provides employment for almost 10 million workers in the estimated 799,000 full-service restaurant locations in the United States. On a typical day, the industry will ring up $922 million in sales, with restaurants accounting for 44 percent of the average American's food expenditure.
Most industry professionals recognize that the go-go days of the '80s are a thing of the past and, with food service entering a more mature phase, expectations for sales growth need to be tempered to be more reflective of current economic conditions. The computer, commonplace in almost 80 percent of all restaurants today, has been a major factor in stabilizing the industry. Although the expansion of the chains may have slowed individual sales growth, new technology enables the independent operator to assimilate information faster, control costs more effectively, and protect the bottom line. The 1990s is referred to as the Information Age, and the implementation of stateof-the-art management systems and controls is critical for survival.
Chains are expanding into such nontraditional locations such as airports, colleges, supermarkets, superstores, and convention centers to gain “new points of access” for business. The casual-theme concepts— Friday's, Bennigan's, Applebee's, and others—offer escape to consumers who are anxious about the social and economic uncertainties of the