Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record $511 billion in 2006, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2006 Restaurant Industry Forecast. The projected annual sales would mean a 5.1 percent increase over last year—and a total economic impact of over $1.3 trillion. It’s the first time the industry’s sales will cross the half-trillion dollar mark.

“With more than $1.4 billion a day in sales, the restaurant industry’s share of the consumer food dollar is nearly 48 percent,” says Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association. “In the year ahead, the restaurant industry is poised to set a record—over one half-trillion dollars in direct sales. It will also mark the industry’s fifteenth year of consecutive real economic growth. As one of the nation’s most aggressive job creators, the industry will employ 12.5 million people in 925,000 locations.”

Though the growth will be strongest in the West and the South, the restaurant industry in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will continue to expand over the coming year. On the state level, Nevada is expected to lead the nation in sales growth next year, while Arizona will post the largest growth in jobs by 2016.

“The nation’s 925,000 restaurants—even through the challenges of rising energy costs and major hurricanes in 2005—are entering 2006 with solid performances and optimism on both the national and state levels,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Association’s Research and Information Services Division. “With the strongest gains in overall employment, disposable income and population growth, states in the West and the South are expected to lead the nation in restaurant sales growth in 2006. The restaurant industry in Nevada will have the highest sales growth of any state, followed by Arizona, Florida, Colorado, and Texas.

“As the industry grows, so will the number of career and employment opportunities in restaurant-and-foodservice establishments—by 2016, there will be an additional 1.9 million jobs available in U.S. restaurants. Again, the Western and Southern states will add the most industry jobs, with Arizona topping the list. Nevada is second, followed by South Carolina, Texas, and Alaska.”

Nationally, restaurant-industry sales are expected to increase by 5.1 percent in 2006. On the state level, Nevada is expected to lead the nation with 8.9 percent sales growth; Arizona follows with 8.1 percent, Florida with 6.9 percent, Colorado with 6.8 percent, and Texas with 6.7 percent. The highest restaurant-sales volume is expected in California, where sales are expected to reach $51.5 billion, Texas at $30.0 billion, New York at $25.5 billion, Florida at $24.0 billion, and Illinois at 17.1 billion.

With the number of restaurant locations in the United States growing to 925,000 in 2006, the number of restaurant jobs will also increase; the industry is expected to add 1.9 million jobs in the next 10 years. Arizona is expected to show the highest restaurant job growth by the year 2016 at 27.7 percent, followed by Nevada at 24.1 percent, South Carolina at 23.8 percent, Texas at 22.7 percent, and Alaska at 22.6 percent.

In 2006, California will have the largest number of restaurant-industry employees (1,369,700), followed by Texas (905,000), Florida (837,300), New York (647,000), and Ohio (538,100).