Market Report, "Full-Service Restaurants in the US", published

From: Fast Market Research, Inc.
Published: Wed Oct 28 2015

One of the most common formats within independent full-service restaurants in the US is the diner. The American institution of the diner began in the early to mid-20th century, and continues to be an important force in the landscape of full-service restaurants. Immortalised in American media ranging from situational comedy television to fine art (for example Seinfeld and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, respectively), diners are traditionally open 24 hours a day, serve simple American dishes such as grilled cheese, burgers, fries, coleslaw and breakfast food, and are not generally subject to larger trends. The décor and menus of many diners might not have changed in decades. That is not to say that many diners have not tried to adapt with gluten-free offerings, for example, but the majority of menu items tend to be proven classics. Diners are also present in the chained sphere, with the notable example of Denny’s. Denny’s operated 1,596 outlets in the US in 2014, and accounted for a 9% share in chained North American full-service restaurants in terms of outlet numbers. Although the Denny’s menu has changed to reflect menu trends to some extent, it still maintains the unmuted vibe of classic Americana. Independent North American full-service restaurants are predominantly in the diner format, accounting for 46% of outlets in North American full-service restaurants.

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Competitive Landscape

Darden Restaurants was again the leading brand operator in GBO terms in 2014, accounting for a 4% value share. Darden is a multi-brand restaurant operator which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and Capital Grill & Bar, amongst others. Darden Restaurants owned Red Lobster until July 2014, when it was purchased by San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital. The sale of Red Lobster, which was originally founded by Bill Darden, and, according to the New York Times, "gave rise to the Darden empire", was met with considerable dissent amongst shareholders, activist funds and some on the Darden board. The day that the sale of Red Lobster was announced in July 2014, Clarence Otis Jr, the chairman and chief executive of Darden Restaurants, made a separate announcement that he would step down after a near decade-long tenure. Red Lobster saw a strong decline in 2013, of 10% in value terms, despite seeing only a negligible outlet decline. The restaurant rebounded in 2014, with a 4% increase in value terms, reaching US$2.5 billion and opening 10 new domestic outlets to total 689.

Industry Prospects

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