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Outlook 2011: Operators predict more hiring, social media

NRN survey respondents split on reinvestment plans

Respondents to the NRN a.m. 2011 Restaurant Operator Survey were split on reinvestment plans for this year, but clearly said additional hiring and more social media efforts will be in the works.

More than 130 subscribers to NRN a.m. — the daily e-newsletter from Nation’s Restaurant News — took an online survey last month, helping to shed light on what the industry is expecting in the year ahead.

The majority of respondents said they expect improved sales and profit, while unit growth will remain questionable for many. The industry’s top challenges, including commodity costs, as well as possible benefits, like increased consumer spending, were also covered in the survey.

NRN is exploring the survey results in a series of articles this week.
• See Part I, covering industry expectations for the year’s biggest challenges and possible benefits.
• See Part II covering sales, profit and unit growth expectations.
• See Part III covering outlooks for menu prices and trends.

Below is a deeper look at reinvestment spending, hiring outlooks and marketing plans. Monday, NRN will run a recap of all the survey results.

Respondents said they plan to put more dollars in 2011 behind various initiatives, without a clear winner. About 28 percent said they would spend more on marketing; nearly 24 percent will look to add dollars behind restaurant redesigns; about 18 percent on technology and about 17 percent on equipment upgrades. About 13 percent of respondents chose none of those areas for reinvestment or spending plans.

With marketing spending looking to be up in 2011, respondents also delved into what specific marketing strategies they would pursue. About 43 percent deemed social media efforts as their largest marketing priority. Thirty-one percent said in-store promotions are key, and about 12 percent deemed local television advertising as their main strategy. About 9 percent will focus on national cable advertising and about 4 percent will rely on radio advertising.

Workforce outlooks suggest that operators will be maintaining staff levels or adding employees. About 56 percent of respondents said they will keep staff levels the same at their restaurant operations, while about 39 percent will look to hire additional employees in 2011. Just 5 percent said they would cut their workforce this year.

Contact Sarah Lockyer at [email protected].

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