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Mintel: Restaurant Trends Look Good

CHICAGO — Despite continued economic uncertainty, 65% of U.S. restaurant diners expect to spend the same amount at restaurants in 2012, and 12% say they plan to spend more, according to the “2012 Dining Out Report,” released last week by Mintel here.

“Overall, restaurant economic prospects for 2012 look positive,” Eric Giandelone, foodservice director at Mintel, said in a release. “In spite of the down economy, Mintel estimates that the U.S. restaurant industry will be worth $416.4 billion in 2012, showing that operators really have listened to consumer wants and needs and made appropriate changes.”

The report also notes that growing consumer interest in where food comes from, along with the desire for fresh, unprocessed food, will likely lead more restaurant chefs to focus on American regionalism and local sourcing this year.

The new menu labeling law that will require chain restaurants to disclose calorie content and other nutrition information could be enforced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as early as this year, and the report points out that this could have an unexpected impact on restaurant traffic and trends. More than 40% of survey respondents said that they will make no changes in how they dine out, based on the new calorie information, while 33% say they will order healthier, lower-calorie menu items.

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