Are chain restaurants dying

Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s Hospitality in the News topic: are chain restaurants dying? 

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve heard a lot about how fast food and quick service restaurants were growing in popularity. Their low contact and inexpensive offerings ticked the necessary boxes during a crucial time.  

But what about sit down chain restaurants, like Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s? Are they still a staple on date night or when the family heads out together for a meal? Let’s dive in.  

Are chain restaurants dying? 

An August 2021 report shows that there are 107,541 chain restaurants in the U.S. with an annualized growth of 1.6% between 2017 and 2022. With these numbers in mind, we can conclude that chain restaurants aren’t dying – they seem to be growing.  

The model of a chain restaurant revolves around convenient, reasonably priced dining that doesn’t feel like a fast-food restaurant. But as the name implies, being part of a chain often means you must abide by the procedures set by the corporation. This can be regarding menu offerings and decorations all the way to what employees say when they’re attending to guests.  

Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with this model, it does seem to contradict what consumers are prioritizing when they dine out: a unique experience. When the LGC team was at the National Restaurant Association Show in May, we heard from numerous people about the importance of the guest experience. When chain restaurants have to relinquish full (if not all) control to corporate, it can be more challenging to create a unique experience that will make guests want to return.  

Reports show a mixed bag of results in terms of chain restaurant sales. Some report major increases from 2021 while others are reporting decreases after seeing success during the pandemic. So, are chain restaurants really dying? 

The answer is no, not for the people who still plan to frequent them. Although it’s not outside the realm of possibility to assume that some will close in the future. For those who are looking for more of a one-of-a-kind experience, there will still be plenty of options to choose from (several hundred thousand to be exact).