Business outlook for 2017: Challenging at best

January 6, 2017

After a rough 2016, what is the business outlook for restaurant operators in 2017?

More of the same. But forecasters see opportunities ahead.

Most of the early-year forecasts focus on chain restaurants and large publicly traded companies. But many of the consumer and macroeconomic trends that inform those forecasts also apply to independent restaurant operators, which make up about 70 percent of the $783 billion American restaurant industry.

For most of those operators, 2017 will be another year of moderate growth, says Hudson Riehle, the National Restaurant Association’s senior vice president, research and knowledge group.

“It does remain a sluggish