If you have a passion for food and have always dreamed of being your own boss, opening up a restaurant may be the perfect business opportunity for you. But before you go and apply for small business financing to open up a restaurant, it’s important to understand some key restaurant industry statistics.
The facts in this article will show that while the restaurant industry can be profitable, running a successful restaurant is no walk in the park.
General restaurant industry statistics
Before we get too deep into the nitty-gritty details of the restaurant industry, here are a few surprising stats about the industry as a whole.
1. There are over 1 million restaurants in the United States (1)
Many potential restaurateurs want to know the number of restaurants in the U.S. before they consider opening up their own eatery. After all, it’s important to know what the competition looks like! In a 2020 study, the National Restaurant Association found there are over 1 million restaurants in the U.S. This includes everything from your Michelin-star restaurants down to the fast-food chains you see along the highway.
2. Nearly 10 million people are employed in the restaurant industry (2)
As of 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are 9.9 million American workers in the restaurant industry. The number of restaurant employees had been climbing by about 300,000 per year since 2011, but then the pandemic hit. In February 2020—right before restaurants across the country had to shut down—there were approximately 12.3 million restaurant employees.
3. There could be 17.2 million restaurant employees by 2030 (1)
Industry experts at the National Restaurant Association believe the number of restaurant workers will soon begin climbing once again. In fact, they expect to add more than 7 million jobs within the next 8 years! This is one of the restaurant industry statistics that should make restaurant owners jump for joy—they might have an easier time finding employees now.
4. 80% of restaurant managers started their careers as entry-level workers (1)
One of the most important employees at any restaurant is the manager, and it takes a ton of experience to be successful. The National Restaurant Association reports that 80% of all restaurant managers in the U.S. started out their restaurant careers by working in entry-level positions. Working in kitchens or as waiters gives managers a fuller understanding of how to run a restaurant successfully.
5. Most restaurants employ fewer than 50 workers (1)
90% of all American restaurants qualify as small businesses because they have fewer than 50 employees on the payroll. Data from this National Restaurant Association study also found that franchise and chain restaurants employ the greatest number of workers with 3.88 million employees across the country.
6. 70% of all U.S. restaurants are single-unit operations (1)
While the big chains employ a large percentage of restaurant workers, there are far more single-unit restaurants than chain restaurants in the U.S. The National Restaurant Association found that 70% of all eateries only have one location. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to beat out the big guys, but there’s plenty of evidence to prove that it can be done.
7. Table service restaurants make approximately $300 billion in annual sales (1)
If you’re able to compete with the big chains and all of the other local mom-and-pop joints, figures from the National Restaurant Association show that you can make a small fortune. Table service restaurants—those that employ waiters and collect the bill after patrons finish eating—bring in about $300 billion each year. It shouldn’t be too surprising that sales fell 30%, to just under $200 billion during the pandemic, but the situation is expected to improve soon.
Digital marketing statistics for restaurants
You could have the best cooks, freshest ingredients, and friendliest waitstaff in town, but if you don’t have a solid online presence, your restaurant is going to struggle. These are a few more restaurant industry statistics that show how today’s diners use the internet.
8. 90% of guests check out a restaurant online before dining (3)
9 out of 10 potential patrons look up restaurants online before they book a reservation or walk through the front door. From reading reviews to checking out menus, today’s diners want to know what to expect before they spend their money on a night out. So, without a website or profiles on Yelp, Tripadvisor, Google, or Facebook, your restaurant is likely going to struggle.
9. 33% of people read other guests’ reviews before selecting a restaurant (3)
Before the internet, guests would often rely primarily on recommendations from friends when looking for a new place to eat. But now, all they need to do is read online reviews to see what strangers are saying about the food and overall experience at a given restaurant. Studies from the restaurant management platform Upserve found that one third of all guests read reviews before choosing a place to eat.
10. Facebook and Instagram are the dominant social media platforms for restaurants (4)
Toast, one of Upserve’s competitors, also has some interesting restaurant industry statistics. The company found that 91% of restaurant operators promote their business on Facebook, while another 78% use Instagram as well. This shows that being active and engaging on social media can go a long way toward growing your restaurant.
11. Yelp reviews can boost profits by 9% (5)
While you need to keep an eye on your Facebook and Instagram accounts to engage with your guests, you can’t forget to check what people are saying about your restaurant on Yelp. A study from the Harvard Business School found that a restaurant’s profits can increase by up to 9% for each Yelp star they receive. For example, a four-star rated restaurant can make 9% more per year than a three-star rated restaurant.
Get your business started with help from NorthOne
If you’ve read all of our restaurant industry statistics and still think you’d like to open up a restaurant, then be sure to open an account with NorthOne. We make small business banking easy so you can spend more time at your restaurant and less time at the bank.