Perhaps the single most important factor impacting the food
service industry is the changing composition of the American household and lifestyle.
Unlike the traditional nuclear family with a working father, homemaker mother
and several children, it is now common to find single-adult, two-working-adult
or single-parent households. Today's household is also more affluent than past
generations with both adults and teenagers possessing greater spending power.
Additionally, busier lifestyles leave less time for the job of meal preparation
and the highly structured dinner occasions of past years.
is good news for the food service industry, which is enjoying an unprecedented
increase in the number of people eating out and significant growth in sales-from
$42.8 billion in 1970 to an estimated $475.8 billion in 2005. Eating take-out
at home or on-the-run is becoming the norm. Food service operators will be challenged
to deliver convenience-meals that are easy to order, easy to eat on the go, and
easy to clean up. A newer entry to the food service industry is the operation
that specializes in take-out food. Known as home-meal replacement (HMR), these
food service facilities have cropped up as personal chefs or in grocery stores.
Although overall population numbers and food consumption are
expected to increase, changing demographics will change the face of the food service
industry in several ways. The aging baby boomers will contribute to an older population
and greater number of retirees. Older people are generally more concerned with
health issues, eat out less often and generally eat less. Additionally, the Mexican
and Asian populations are expected to grow at a faster pace than other segments.
Restaurants will respond to these changes with different menu offerings that may
require new technologies and types of equipment. Also larger retiree and immigrant
populations open up a worker base previously not available to restaurant operators.
A concern for food service providers is the rising rate of
obesity among Americans. One source suggests that if the trend continues, approximately
three-fourths of American adults could weigh too much by the end of the decade.
Some critics want to blame school lunch programs for the development of unhealthy
eating patterns and the food service industry in general for contributing to the
rise of chronic diseases associated with obesity. It is possible that some companies
could face litigation and the industry could be subjected to government regulation.