RESTAURANTS: Unknowns give industry the jitters

The Times Board of Economists - An economic update from John Barney, president Barney Enterprises
2013-01-27T00:00:00Z 2013-12-18T16:30:36Z RESTAURANTS: Unknowns give industry the jittersBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

Restaurants throughout the nation are dealing with higher food costs and the uncertainties surrounding Obamacare, which are expected to hit the industry particularly hard.

"It's always the unknowns you can't deal with and forces you don't have control over," said John Barney, president of Barney Enterprises, which operates several Wendy's restaurants in the region. "And what the government does is certainly one of those."

On the plus side, restaurants have enjoyed lower energy costs the past few years, much like homeowners and others have.

Nationally, restaurants sales will hit $660 million in 2013, a 3.8 percent increase over 2012, marking the fourth year in a row of sales growth, according to a National Restaurant Association forecast.

Lower staff turnover also has benefited the industry in recent years, with Barney estimating his turnover is 50 percent below normal levels.

Restaurants are the nation's second-largest private-sector employer, employing 10 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the National Restaurant Association.

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