• Restaurant Group Expects Sales Boost, Subsidized Chip Plants To Offer Child Care, Florida Takes Over

    Restaurant Group Sees Sales Boost

    A prominent trade group’s forecast calls for U.S. restaurant sales in 2023 to climb 6.4% over 2022 to nearly $1 trillion, as pandemic fixtures like outdoor dining and cocktails-to-go become permanent even as emergency measures subside.

    “The temporary ‘pivots’ developed during the pandemic — expanded delivery services, outdoor dining options, to-go alcohol offerings and investments in technology — are the foundation of the industry’s ‘new normal,” the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association said Tuesday in its annual “state of the industry” report.

    The trade group predicted 2023 U.S. sales of $997 billion, with growth driven in part by higher menu prices. About 40% of limited-service operators surveyed for the forecast report said the addition of drive-thru lanes will become more common in 2023, and more than 90% of all restaurateurs surveyed plan to continue offering outdoor seating and alcohol-to-go if local regulations allow them.

    More than four in 10 operators are planning investments in equipment and technology to increase front- and back-of-the-house productivity, primarily in areas such as food ordering and payment processing. Even among fine-dining restaurants, 80% of operators plan to continue offering delivery services that were started in the early months of the pandemic.

    The restaurant and food-service industry added 2.8 million jobs over the past two years, and the trade group projects companies will add an average of 150,000 annually between 2023 and 2030. Only about 10% of operators surveyed said recruiting and retaining employees will be easier in 2023 than it was in 2022, and 93% said they are still dealing with total food costs that are higher than they were in 2019.

    Because the rise of remote work is “blurring traditional meal times,” the trade group said operators are being challenged to entice customers with offerings including “off-hours or slow-day value deals,” and other types of flexible pricing and meal bundles.

    Subsidized Chip Plants To Offer Child Care

    Several planned mega-sized manufacturing projects have sprung from a new federal program designed to partially subsidize domestic manufacturing of computer chips and avoid overseas supply chain disruptions. Going forward, government help will come with some newly attached strings, including a requirement that plant operators provide affordable child care services for workers.

    Formally opening the application process for the $50 billion CHIPS and Science Act passed last year, the Commerce Department Tuesday said applicants requesting more than $150 million in direct funding “must also submit plans to provide both their facility and construction workers with access to affordable, accessible, reliable and high-quality child care.”

    Those receiving that level of direct funding will also be required to share with the government “any cash flows or returns that exceed the applicant’s projections above an established threshold,” and the government will also review applications for hiring and other workplace principles and commitments by companies to refrain from stock buybacks.

    The U.S. child care industry is struggling to rebound from the pandemic, with its workforce down 58,000 or 5% below its pre-pandemic peak, according to a review of Labor Department data by University of California Berkeley researchers.

    The Bipartisan Policy Center research organization estimated prior to the pandemic that fewer than 8 million care slots were available for more than 11 million children in need of services in 35 states, putting pressure on working families.

    Florida Takes Over Disney Development District

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Monday officially giving the governor power over a development district long used by Disney to develop projects around its Walt Disney World theme park near Orlando.

    Among other changes, DeSantis immediately replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District’s governing board, many of whom have had ties to Disney for the past 50 years, with a five-member body selected by the governor, including GOP supporters. Changes do not impact Disney’s existing financial responsibilities but could slow approval of future Disney-related infrastructure projects.

    “For more than 50 years, the Reedy Creek Improvement District has operated at the highest standards, and we appreciate all that the District has done to help our destination grow and become one of the largest economic contributors and employers in the state,” Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle said in a statement prior to the signing. “We are focused on the future and are ready to work within this new framework.”

    The GOP-led Florida Legislature moved last year to impose new restrictions in response to Disney’s taking a stand against a Florida bill, later signed into law, limiting certain classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. “There’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day,” DeSantis said during a bill-signing ceremony.

    Source: www.CoStar.com