Oregon Restaurant Industry Hit by Economic Downturn

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By Nike Kern, Biz Reporter

With today’s economy in a tailspin one of our state’s leading industries is being hit harder than most.  The Oregon restaurant industry employs an estimated 110,000 and creates a whopping economic impact of 9.7 billion dollars annually into our economy.  With more than 9,000 restaurants and food service outlets throughout the state it appears the short end of the stick has been given to the restaurant industry during today’s economic downturn.

“Three to four weeks ago the restaurant business just dropped off,” explains Bill Perry vice president of government affairs for the Oregon Restaurant Association.  “People just stopped going out to eat and a 30-40 percent decline appeared to occur over night.”

During the first three quarters 2008, the Association saw the downturn begin with a four percent decline. Rising fuel costs drove up food prices by eight percent in the first two quarters of the year. “Generally, if you have a four percent downturn you can make some shifts and survive,” explains Perry. “But when you have a decline in revenue and a growth in the cost of products it gets even more difficult.”

Oregonians are eating out by going the quick service route rather than the more typical mid-range restaurants.  Today, “Mom and Pop” independents, in addition to the mid-range restaurants, are getting hit harder. High-end restaurants tend not to experience the pain as badly due to expense account clienteles and special event spending.

A new survey by NPD Group, a global consumer and market research firm, illustrated that when consumers trim their dining out budget first, when trying to reduce their spending.  A recent survey showed fifty-seven percent of consumers are planning to dine out less often during the economic slow down. “Hopefully families will being getting out to eat during the Christmas season,” says Perry.