Maureen 2019Looking back at my Publisher’s Letter from one year ago, I talked about three major challenges to the restaurant industry: inflation, labor costs and supply chain issues. From that vantage point, when we look at where we are at today, the industry can feel pretty good about the resiliency that it has shown in the face of these major challenges.

The restaurant industry has continued to demonstrate modest year-over-year gains despite a higher interest rate environment designed to tamp down inflation. U.S. retail and foodservice sales increased .7% in July over June and marked a 3.2% increase over the previous year. Total sales for May 2023 through July 2023 were up 2.3% from the same period a year ago. Restaurant industry sales grew by 1.4% in July, marking the third consecutive monthly increase, all according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Competition for labor remains strong, supply chain issues have lessened though not disappeared. In an August pulse survey, 50% of rd+d readers said that they are still experiencing supply chain issues (see page 14). However, 69% of readers in an April 2022 survey said that supply chain issues had forced them to change construction plans on their current projects.

Borrowing costs are obviously a lot higher, given the prescribed rise in interest rates, but overall, the restaurant industry has been able to keep chugging along. The really interesting thing from the viewpoint of rd+d is to see how this changing environment impacts restaurant design.

There is a greater emphasis on efficiency than ever before — efficiency of movement for workers, improving efficiency in water and energy consumption, and efficiency in terms of speed of service for customers, both those dining inside and outside the restaurant.

As the restaurant industry evolves to meet the challenges of a changing environment, both literally and figuratively, we can track these changes by recognizing the best examples of design excellence with our own 2024 rd+d awards. This is the eighth year that we have conducted these awards under the watchful eye of Editor in Chief Rebecca Kilbreath, and we will be accepting entries until October 6, 2023. Awards will be given in seven categories and if you feel that your project deserves to be recognized by your peers, I urge you to take the opportunity to let us tell your story (see page 63)!

All the best,