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A new report from the National Restaurant Association predicts Arizona’s restaurant industry will lead the rest of the country in growth this year and will continue to do so for at least the next 10 years.
The report ranked Arizona first in the nation for anticipated restaurant sales growth in 2015 and first in job growth through 2025.
The report used economic indicators like total employment in the restaurant industry, disposable personal income and population to estimate new jobs and sales in the coming years.
This is the second consecutive year the group has projected Arizona would lead the nation in sales growth.
“If we go back to last year, we can tell Arizona is doing something right,” said Chianne Hewer, spokeswoman for the Arizona Restaurant Association. “Our restaurants have seen growth in the flexibility in new culinary concepts and talent.”
Hewer said major events during the state’s cooler months play an important role in Arizona’s growth. She noted that annual events like spring training and the Waste Management Phoenix Open attract hundreds of thousands of people, and special larger events, like the Super Bowl, put some restaurants in the spotlight.
Andrew Fritz, who owns some Valley restaurants, said the Super Bowl definitely has an impact.
“A lot of people think that if you miss the Super Bowl, then you are missing out on a significant opportunity to generate revenue,” Fritz said. “Overall, I think this time of year in Arizona is extremely strong. March and spring training is our biggest opportunity to generate revenue, and we are forecasting to see that again regardless of having the Super Bowl here.”
Fritz said Arizona’s growth isn’t a total surprise.
With a favorable environment for opening a business, like fewer labor restrictions and lower taxes, he said the state makes it easy to open a restaurant.
“I like Arizona,” Fritz said. “I like the economic climate here. I know I can open up the door 365 days a year. It gets really hot in the summer, but it is predictable.”
Fritz and his partners at Phoenix-based In Good Spirits opened their first restaurant, Citizen Public House, in 2011, and started their second concept, The Gladly, in 2013.
“The recession provided a unique kind of phenomenon where people felt more comfortable spending their money in restaurants,” he said. “Restaurants tended to be the first to come out of the recession. For a family of four, it’s a lot cheaper to go out to dinner and have an entertaining, engaging family experience centered around food than, say, go to a baseball game or a basketball game.”
As the economy continues to improve, the National Restaurant Association estimated that Arizona would add as many as 65,000 new food-services jobs.
However, succeeding in the competitive industry is difficult even when it’s growing, Hewer said.
“As rewarding and amazing as the restaurant industry is, it is hard work,” Hewer said. “It is not a 9-to-5 job and is very labor intensive.”
By the Numbers
The National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast included several estimates for the industry. It ranked Arizona as first in the nation for sales growth in 2015, followed by Florida, North Dakota, North Dakota and Texas. Other estimates for Arizona included:
• Sales growth for 2015: 4.9 percent
• Employment growth for 2015: 3 percent (third in nation)
• Employment growth through 2025: 23.8 percent (first in nation)
• Revenue for 2015: $11.5 billion (first in Mountain region)
Source: National Restaurant Association, 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast