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Outlook 2012: Restaurants' spending plans vary

Investments split between remodels, equipment upgrades and more marketing spend

Restaurant operators are looking to invest in remodels, both interior and exterior, as well as equipment upgrades and additional marketing spending in 2012, according to the exclusive NRN Restaurant Operators Survey.

Marketing took the top spot when the more than 150 respondents were asked where dollars will be allocated this year, with 27 percent choosing it as their top spending area. Closely following that response were investments in restaurant redesigns, at 24 percent, and equipment upgrades at 21 percent. About 9 percent of operator respondents said they would allocate investment dollars toward technology upgrades.

A full 18 percent of respondents said they can’t invest right now, reflecting the still-struggling profit margins among some restaurants operations.

Digging into how those marketing dollars will be spent, social media is by far the largest part of most restaurant operators’ plans. About 47 percent of survey respondents said social media is the most important aspect of their 2012 marketing campaigns.

In-store promotions were named most important by 28 percent of respondents, followed by local market television at 11 percent, national cable television at 8 percent and radio advertising at 7 percent.

Separately, restaurant operators plan either to keep staff levels the same or hire more workers in 2012, a sharp reversal from the workforce cuts seen in 2008 and 2009, during the height of the recession.

About 51 percent of survey respondents said they would keep staff levels the same in 2012, while 38 percent of respondents said they would hire more employees. About 11 percent said they would cut their workforce this year.

NRN has explored the results from the 2012 NRN Restaurant Operators Survey through this week.

Part I: Sales, profit and unit growth expectations
Part II: Menu pricing trends
Part III: Washington politics

Contact Sarah Lockyer at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN

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