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Foodservice Survey: Restaurants hope for change

Economy weighs heavily on foodservice operators

By Fiona Robinson
December 01, 2008

If you had asked foodservice buyers at the beginning of the year how their business would fare for 2008, most probably would have said "fair." Toss in a global economic crisis and restaurant operators' outlook has changed drastically since this summer, when SeaFood Business magazine's foodservice readers were polled for this biennial survey.

A lot has happened in the industry over the past quarter: Red Lobster announced a menu price increase of up to 3 percent; Shells Seafood Restaurants filed Chapter 7 and closed all of its restaurants; and Technomic projected full-service restaurants will have only 1 percent nominal sales growth for 2008.

Declining traffic/shrinking economy was the third most important challenge facing operators in this year's survey, but this likely would be the No. 1 challenge cited today. Sustainability moved to No. 5, down from the third most important issue challenging restaurants in our last survey in 2006. More sustainable purchasing programs are available now, as well as certified 
species to p u t o n the menu.

When it comes to dealing with a shrinking economy, more than half of the operators surveyed said their customers are switching to dishes with cheaper species. Many respondents also mentioned they are reducing portion sizes, raising menu prices and reducing labor. Others are focusing on increasing marketing to drive traffic, while others are engineering value-type menus. Three-quarters of those surveyed mentioned their menu prices are higher this year compared to 2007.

Domestic shrimp replaced scallops in the top five of SFB 's Top 10 list of species on foodservice menus. Imported shrimp, farmed salmon and crab remain in the top three spots, respectively.

More than 25 percent of respondents mentioned they do not have problems sourcing seafood, while the same percentage also noted price is their biggest problem when sourcing the protein.



This marks the 20th year SeaFood Business surveyed its foodservice readers. This summer the survey was e-mailed, mailed and faxed to almost 3,000 readers who are foodservice buyers, and the response rate was 8.3 percent.

Restaurant types can be seen in the chart below.


Editor in Chief Fiona Robinson can be e-mailed at frobinson@divcom.com


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