Stories

The grim future of restaurants

In this image, a waiter carries several entree plates while walking through a restaurant.
A waiter in 2008 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The golden age of restaurants may be over, thanks to the collision of oversaturated markets, rising labor and food costs, changing consumer loyalties, a shrinking middle class, and declines in mall traffic, WashPost's Laura Reiley writes.

Why it matters: The restaurant industry can be a precursor to a bear market or recession.

  • Restaurant growth has already exceeded population growth for years, according to analyst David Henkes of Technomic.
  • And it'll be 5 to 7 years before the huge millennial generation fits neatly in the spending sweet spot.

Between the lines: The Post's thesis comes from “Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End,” a book out July 9 from James Beard Award-winning food writer Kevin Alexander.

  • Alexander argues that since 2006, U.S. restaurants have enjoyed a transformative period.
  • Among the innovations: "'fine casual dining' .... craft cocktails, farm-to-table dining, the hipification of non-Western food, the audacity of food truck culture, the democratization of criticism via social media."

Now, the shake-up: "There are too many restaurants,” Alexander told The Post. "There hasn’t been a recession since 2008, and a recession gets the people who aren’t serious out of the way. Austerity breeds creativity."

Go deeper: We’ve just lived through the greatest period of restaurant growth in U.S. history. Here’s why it’s ending.