Sagging Economy Is Bitter Dish for Restaurateurs

With 12-15% slump forecast in fine dining for '09, some close down, others plug deals
By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2009 12:55 PM CST
Sagging Economy Is Bitter Dish for Restaurateurs
As the economy dips, families are turning from the pricey fare of Jean Georges to the cheaper home comforts of Martha.   (AP Photo)

Lean times are perhaps leanest in the restaurant business, and fine-dining establishments are bracing for a particularly tough year while improvising strategies to remain afloat, the Wall Street Journal reports. Sales, $7 billion last year, are expected to plummet 12-15%; the industry could shed 12,000-18,000 restaurants, a 2-3% decline compared to usual growth of 1-2%.

Tactics like cutting operating hours, adding brunches, and even offering “honor bars” have emerged as owners battle unsavory economic conditions that are the top concern of 47% of restaurateurs. Fine dining will be hardest hit; as customers trade down for lower-cost fare, sales are expected to decline 2.5% overall for full-service restaurants, while quick service will grow by 0.4%. (More restaurant stories.)

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