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Restaurant Sales Expected to Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2022

Things are looking up in the world of foodservice.

Restaurant industry sales are expected to hit $898 billion this year, up from $864 billion in 2019, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry report.

Notably, sales gains are expected to come from price increases, which are about 8% higher at quick-service restaurants and 6% higher at full-service restaurants versus 2020. At the same time, the industry is significantly smaller, by about 80,000 establishments, than in 2019.

“Restaurant recovery continues on a year-over-year basis, especially compared to last year,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor, in a press release. “The industry’s recovery isn’t going to be a straight line moving upward based on the nearly two years of the pandemic so far; it’s going to be bumpy. That said, restaurant traffic should recover 98% of 2019 visits by the end of 2022.”

The majority of restaurant operators expect to maintain or grow their sales in 2022. Nearly half are forecasting higher sales than 2021 and 40% expect similar levels. Four in 10 operators expect their sales to surpass pre-pandemic numbers, the report said.


Meanwhile, the report also found that Gen Z consumers are far more likely to use modern innovations like alcohol delivery than other generations, noting that 70% of Gen Zers said the ability to add alcohol to a takeout or delivery order is a determining factor in their restaurant decisions, reported Restaurant Business (Jan. 31).  

Additionally, more than half said they would prefer ordering and paying with a tableside tablet or mobile app, compared to service from a waiter. This is good news for Panera which just launched contactless dine-in, a new feature in the Panera Mobile App that allows customers to order on their own devices for dine-in service.

In general, four in ten Gen Zers said they think restaurants need to add more tech, but just a quarter of all adults agreed.


Despite cash flow gains, restaurants are still facing labor pressures. About half of operators in all segments expect recruitment and retention to be their top challenge this year.

Total industry employment is expected to reach just under 15 million jobs in 2022, which is only about 400,000 above the previous year. The report also states that 80% of operators are paying more for labor versus a year ago, and combined food, labor, and occupancy costs now account for around 70 cents of every dollar generated in sales.