If you operate a restaurant in Arizona or are considering opening one here, there isn’t a better place in the country to do so. With business-friendly policies in governments to business-fostering programs from organizations like the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, restaurant operators are seeing an unprecedented streak of year-over-year growth.Phoenix Downtown Skyline daytime

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, who is also president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, gave an inside update on the state’s booming restaurant industry and provided some highlights on his tenure as chairman of the board of supervisors to other C-level executives during the Chamber’s CEO Roundtable Dec. 9.

Chucri, who has lived in Arizona since he was a small child, has seen the state and its dining options grow up around him. In the early days, the variety was lacking.

But a lot has changed since those days. The state is now populated by people from everywhere. And with those people have come tastes for many types of cuisine and chefs to cook it. And most importantly, with overall economic prosperity have arrived the pocketbooks to pay for dinners out on the town. The Valley’s restaurant industry, which employs approximately 300,000, has been a large beneficiary.

“The restaurant industry has grown by a billion dollars in the past 24 months in year-over-year sales,” Chucri said. “For the first time ever, restaurant sales have outpaced grocery store sales. Restaurants are on fire.”

Chucri added that even during the economic recession, restaurant sales still grew in Arizona. And he predicts that the restaurant business will continue as a growth leader for the next decade.

“We’ve never had a year of negative growth. Even during the downturn, we were growing by about $100 million per year,” he said. “And we’re going to lead the nation in job creation over the next 10 years.”

He partly attributes the strength of his business segment to restaurants’ ability to reassess their offerings and evolve as tastes and dining preferences evolve.

“The average shelf life for a restaurant is 20 years,” he said. “That’s why McDonald’s (and several others) are doing all they can to keep relevant. It’s an exhilarating industry.”

One of those restaurateurs seeking to stay relevant by giving customers what they want is Dorothy Stingley, who operates 11 McDonald’s locations in Arizona.

Stingley has been operating McDonald’s restaurants for more than three decades and has seen many attempts by the chain to introduce new offerings and tweak customer service. She said one of the most high-profile recent offerings – the introduction of the near-mythical all-day breakfast, has been a success.

“Unexpectedly and happily moving to all-day breakfast has given us between a 10 and 15 percent boost in sales,” Stingley said to the group of CEOs. “Really, it was a no-brainer to do all-day breakfast. The business case was compelling.”

“We’re continuing to modernize,” Stingley said. “McDonald’s is never standing still.”

Written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager.

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