The foodservice industry is forecast to reach $997 billion in sales in 2023, driven in part by higher menu prices, according to the recently released National Restaurant Association’s “2023 State of the Restaurant Industry” report.

Rising costs are a major concern among operators: 92% of operators say the cost of food is a significant issue for their restaurant, and 89% say higher labor costs are a significant challenge. To counter rising costs, 87% of operators increased menu prices, 38% of operators postponed expansion plans and 21% incorporated new technology into their restaurants.

The "pivots" developed during the pandemic — off-premises dining, outdoor dining, to-go alcohol offerings, and investments in technology — are the foundation of the industry's new normal, according to the report.

Two-thirds of adults say they're more likely to order takeout food from a restaurant than they were before the pandemic. And that means that off-premises dining will continue to be a major driver in the foodservice industry. Off-premises-only locations are expected to grow in popularity; more than 4 in 10 limited-service operators think they will be more common this year.

A whopping 60% of full-service operators say delivery is a bigger share of sales than it was in 2019. At least 4 in 10 operators in each of the three limited-service segments — quick-service, fast casual, and coffee and snack — believe the addition of drive-thru lanes will become more common in 2023. Among fine-dining restaurants that offered delivery during the pandemic, 79% added it for the first time; 8 in 10 of those plans to continue.

With 69% of adults saying they like the option to dine outside, it will also continue to trend. Seven in 10 operators report their restaurant offered outdoor seating at some point in the last 3 years. Across all major segments, more than 9 in 10 operators plan to continue offering outdoor seating and the same number of operators are also likely to continue offering alcohol to go, if their jurisdiction allows it.

Despite widespread investment in technology in the last few years, the restaurant industry is still far from becoming a tech-centric sector. Most operators still consider their use of technology as mainstream rather than the leading edge.

In 2023, many operators want to keep moving toward the edge, with more than 4 in 10 planning investments in equipment or technology to increase front- and back-of-the-house productivity. These investments are anticipated mostly in the order and payment space, rather than automated systems or robots that prepare and serve food.