Restaurant Finance and Development Conference 2014

Every November, TaraPaige heads to Las Vegas to attend the annual Restaurant Finance and Development Conference. The conference is attended by restaurant CEO’s, owners, operators, and finance professionals from all over the country. Attendees have the opportunity to meet, mingle and learn from investment firms, real estate developers, and other financial firms to source financing, make deals, and locate new business opportunities. Each year brings a new set of hot topics regarding the current lending and investment environment for food enterprises.

As we begin 2015, we would like to share with you a few of TaraPaige’s key takeaways from this year’s conference.

  1. Markets Are Still Strong! Contrary to popular belief, recent markets conditions are still promising for the restaurant industry. It is understood that restaurant sales follow consumer discretionary income and with recent index highs, increased household income, and more diverse dining options than ever before, we can expect total restaurant sales to benefit. Even since 2009, the U.S. restaurant industry has returned to historical growth rates, with total sales rising about 3 percent a year, slightly ahead of inflation.
  1. Capital Raising – Know Your Audience: Raising capital for your enterprise is never an easy feat, but knowing the stage of growth for your business is key. First time owners and operators will typically source initial funding from friends, family or themselves as banks and institutional investors are often weary of new concepts without a proven business model. For institutional capital, lenders and investors like to see a clear path for growth, strong cash flow, and established operations. This is also geared towards later-stage growth companies looking for larger capital commitments. High net worth individuals may be another financing opportunity for those who have the right concept, created the connection, and are looking for a substantial investment and partnership.
  1. Casual Dining Revival: Perhaps the forsaken stepchild of recent years, casual dining is at an interesting turning point. After seeing a significant evolution from family dining, to the popularization of ethnic foods and a focus on healthy cuisine, owners and operators are looking to reset and restart growth in this category. Strong brand positioning, concept differentiation, target market knowledge, and end-to-end engagement across the organization will contribute to positive growth. After all, consumers will make their choice by brands and experiences, not based on industry dining segments.
  1. Future Food Trends: By the time you’ve nailed down the current food trends, it’s likely the industry has already moved on. However, there are a number of movements that have made their way across dining segments and different concepts across the country. Ever since the explosion of ethnic and fusion cuisine, flavor and more specifically, spice is here to stay. Consequently, menu differentiation and chef-driven concepts have soared in popularity. Seasonality and local-sourcing now play a large role in menu items while non-traditional menu structures such as small and shared plates are popping up everywhere.

The restaurant industry is constantly evolving, with new opportunities for growth and investment each year. The Restaurant Finance and Development Conference offers great networking opportunities, but also insight into practical operational and financial topics presented by the top experts in the industry. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and will see you again next year!



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