F&B Biz Resilience Builds Confidence

Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm

A New York trade show presentation on U.S. food and beverage (F&B) operations offered a bright outlook for this sector, suggesting positive implications for textile services that specialize in this market. The Nov. 10 discussion indicated that the emerging political climate creates uncertainty. But the nature of the restaurant business is such that it will nonetheless remain strong.

Michael Kaufman, president, Centerplate Inc., told the Hospitality Leadership Forum (an American Hotel & Lodging Association event at the International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show) that the F&B business has become so integral to the American lifestyle that it’s unlikely ever to recede. Roughly half of the U.S. adult population has worked in a restaurant, he observed. With $630 billion in revenue in 2012, it’s bigger than 90 countries’ GDP and roughly the size of the airline, agriculture and movie businesses combined.

“You can’t outsource it. Inherently, it’s a very local operation,” he said. He noted the industry’s importance as a trend-setter for employee relations and career-building, calling it “an opportunity for America to see how it can revitalize what American is about” for entry- and professional-level work.

Kaufman, a past National Restaurant Association chair, said the Affordable Care Act and immigration control are creating a cloud of uncertainty over the business. On the latter, he said, “This is America and I have to believe we’ll all figure out ways to work through it. Both (political) parties understand the landscape requires a fresh approach.”

He highlighted the limited-service segment of the business as best prepared to capitalize on technology shifts. When diners are asked about the importance of wireless and web to their restaurant experiences, this corner of the business gets the highest ratings. “Fast casual” restaurants are booming because “People are on their own timetables,” he noted, and “less is more.” The most successful chains, he predicted, will be those that give consumers the most leeway in specifying what they order, “allowing them to decide what their meal or drink will be.”